Edwin Diaz actually has three days of spring training to consider, however concedes the possibility of entering Thursday night’s game to ensure a Mets lead is enticing.
It will be Mets-Nationals, Opening Night, and with Jacob deGrom scheduled to begin, odds are acceptable Diaz will get pushed into such a circumstance.
“I have been preparing myself all spring to pitch in high leverage, whether it’s the eighth or the ninth,” Diaz said Friday before the Mets lost 7-3 to Washington in an exhibition game. “And if next Thursday comes around and we’re protecting a lead, I am looking forward to pitch the eighth or ninth inning, whatever the team needs from me to get that win.”
It’s a soothing suggestion for manager Luis Rojas, who has gotten as near perfection from the right-hander this spring as he might actually ask. Diaz hadn’t permitted a disagreement five appearances, where he gave up just two hits, without any walks and seven strikeouts.
That strength is a continuation of Diaz’s second half last season, when he was near unhittable. In general, he completed the season with a 1.75 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 25 ²/₃ innings. In the event that there were any inquiries toward the beginning of camp who might be the nearer, they have been replied.
“It looks like he’s in a good place,” a scout said. “His body language projects confidence.”
The scout added that the true test probably won’t come until Diaz needs to react from permitting a homer with the game on the line. Likewise, the consistency of Diaz’s slider “has been and will remain a concern,” as indicated by the scout.
Diaz, 27, entered camp prepared to pitch after a thorough offseason program, and he has dazzled team authorities with his demeanor.
“He’s more mature — another year in the big leagues,” Rojas said. “We all learned a lot last year because he gave us a lot to take into the offseason and I think he’s one of those guys who did that and he worked really hard. He’s just maturing into a veteran pitcher, a veteran closer. You could see him just becoming a monster.”
The centerpiece of the trade that sent top possibility Jarred Kelenic to the Mariners before the 2019 season, Diaz contributed to appalling outcomes his first year with the Mets.
Last season — without any fans in major league ballparks in view of the pandemic — Diaz didn’t confront the terminating squad when he fizzled. The fans are returning this season, and Diaz said that is energizing.
“Last year it was a shame that MLB, that we couldn’t have fans because of the pandemic,” Diaz said. “Fans obviously make the game more fun and they are the reason we go out there and compete the way we do. I am definitely looking forward to seeing them and hearing their reactions on certain things that happen in the game. That will make it more fun.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Mets are projected to vie for the NL East title, after an offseason that incorporated the appearance of Francisco Lindor, James McCann and a huge number of depth moves.
“From the team aspect I am super happy with how we have been looking,” Diaz said. “Like I always say, if we are healthy we can definitely go a long way. The pitching staff is good, the infield, the outfield, it’s an elite team.
“Even our bench, it’s a major league bench and any of these guys can play as everyday players on many teams, but I am super happy with how we are looking right now. Personally I am excited to have a great year and help the team win and hopefully win a World Series with this team.”