Díaz continues to build toward late-season return

Mets closer will keep on throwing from base of mound during his rehab process

August 13th, 2023

NEW YORK --  continues inching toward a potential late-season return, even as his rehab from a torn patellar tendon in his right knee remains shrouded in some mystery.

The Mets’ closer has been throwing off the base of a mound and will continue to do so for another 7-10 days.

At that point, Díaz will be put through another round of testing, including strength and range-of-motion measurements. If all goes well, Díaz can presumably advance from there to full mound work, but general manager Billy Eppler would not commit to that course of action.

“Let’s just really focus on the process,” Eppler said. “What are we doing today, and was today successful? Will we repeat today? And how many days would we repeat before we move to the next phase?

“When we get a chance to get some objective data as well as subjective data -- feedback from the player -- then we can see what comes next.”

Díaz, for his part, has not spoken to New York reporters since mid-April. He has been willing to talk about his progress, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation, but the Mets have declined multiple requests to interview him.

Díaz’s recovery began immediately after he underwent surgery to repair the patellar tear following Team Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic in March. He has been throwing off flat ground since early summer and, by mid-July, had stretched out to 150 feet.

Recently, Díaz added work from the base of the mound to his routine.

Díaz could advance to the pitching rubber in about a week, he could stay where he’s at, or he could take the intermediate step of throwing from halfway up the slope of the mound; that decision will depend upon the results of his testing.

Either way, Díaz still has many steps before his potential return: bullpen sessions, bullpens with a hitter standing in, live batting practice, simulated games, and rehab outings. With seven weeks to go in the season -- the rough equivalent of a full Spring Training -- it remains unclear if he has enough time to clear all those hurdles.

What team officials have made clear is that if Díaz is healthy enough to return, the Mets will let him pitch despite their last-place standing in the National League East entering Sunday’s play.

Manager Buck Showalter has spoken about the importance -- both for Díaz and for the organization -- of avoiding a situation in which he goes nearly a full year without pitching competitively.

The Mets won’t jeopardize Díaz’s health to achieve that, but if the closer returns to full strength before the end of September, team officials see no reason to keep him sidelined.

“I get a feeling of enthusiasm,” Eppler said of Díaz’s mindset. “So that’s good.”