Marlins have 10 days to trade or waive Leiter

PHILADELPHIA -- Al Leiter's second stint with Florida never came close to matching his fantastic first one.

Now, Leiter won't get the chance to turn around his sinking season with the Marlins.

Leiter was designated for assignment Thursday by Florida, perhaps signaling the end of a 19-year career for the left-hander who helped the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays win World Series titles.

Leiter agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract with Florida in the offseason but never regained the form that saw him win 27 games and a World Series ring with the Marlins in 1996 and 1997.

"I truly expected more success in my return to the Florida Marlins," Leiter said in a statement. "To say I am disappointed with my performance is vastly understated. I understand the organization needed to do what they had to do."

Leiter, though, refused to say he was retiring.

"I'm anticipating an opportunity to make the best of the remainder of the season," he said.

Leiter struggled with his control and was briefly bumped to the bullpen in his second stint with the Marlins, going 3-7 with a 6.64 ERA in 16 starts.

He gave up 88 hits and walked 60 in 80 innings. His last game was a 9-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday where he allowed six hits and six runs -- five earned -- in three-plus innings.

"It's always tough," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "He's been a very successful pitcher. You always hate to see something like that happen. He's a real pro and a good guy."

The Marlins have 10 days to trade him or put him on waivers.

Leiter, 39, had spent the last seven years with the New York Mets, going 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA last season. He's 158-127 with a 3.76 ERA in a career that began in 1987 with the New York Yankees.

"You see the kind of year he had last year and knew he was perfectly capable of doing it again," said outfielder Jeff Conine. "You could sit here and guess all you want about what happens."

General manager Larry Beinfest told Leiter of his decision on Wednesday afternoon. Beinfest said he didn't know what Leiter's plans are, though the affable pitcher has dabbled in broadcasting. He's done analyst work for Fox and ESPN.

"Everybody's disappointed. Everybody wanted this to work out," Beinfest said. "Unfortunately, it didn't. This was a performance-based decision because Al's a wonderful guy."

Leiter's wife, Lori, gave birth Friday night to the couple's fourth child.

Florida recalled left-hander Jason Vargas from Double-A Carolina to take Leiter's spot. Vargas, a second-round draft pick last year, went 7-4 with a 2.50 ERA in 17 starts in the minor leagues this year.

The Marlins also hope to get right-hander Josh Beckett back from the disabled list soon. McKeon said Beckett would play catch before Thursday night's game with Philadelphia.

Also, right-hander Ismael Valdez could return soon, with the Marlins encouraged by his six inning rehab start Wednesday night for Class-A Jupiter.

Beckett strained his left oblique muscle during a July 5 start and Leiter relieved him. It was the 31st relief appearance of Leiter's career and his first since Sept. 15, 1993, for the Blue Jays.

Florida needs all the healthy pitchers it can get if it plans to make a run in the NL East. The Marlins started the night 6½ games behind division-leading Washington.

Leiter threw Florida's first no-hitter in 1996 and was traded to the Mets during the Marlins' payroll purge following the 1997 World Series season.

He won World Series titles with Toronto in 1992 and 1993 and pitched for the Mets in the 2000 World Series, which they lost to the Yankees.

Leiter made his mark with the Mets. On Oct. 4, 1999, he pitched a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati to clinch the NL wild card and won a career-best 17 games in 1998.

He was 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 17 career postseason games.

Conine, who played with Leiter on the 1997 team and is also with the Marlins for a second time, said it hurt him to see Leiter struggle so badly.

"You know the guy's doing everything in his ability to do better and he cares so much about doing well for the team and getting out there and doing his job," Conine said. "Unfortunately, he never did."