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Notes: Díaz, Thor's differing spring debuts

Piazza visits Mets camp; Cordell impresses in place of Nimmo
@AnthonyDiComo
February 26, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At first glance, Edwin Díaz’s first spring outing looked a lot like his 2019 season. Díaz hit 98 mph. He generated swings and misses, striking out a batter. He also allowed three hits, including a pair of two-run doubles, in a 4-2 Mets loss to

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At first glance, Edwin Díaz’s first spring outing looked a lot like his 2019 season. Díaz hit 98 mph. He generated swings and misses, striking out a batter. He also allowed three hits, including a pair of two-run doubles, in a 4-2 Mets loss to the Astros.

Describing his debut, Díaz said he was “a little bit anxious because it was the first time being out there in a real game, facing real batters.”

“But other than that,” he added, “I felt really good.”

At a time of year when statistics generally do not matter, perhaps no Mets player is under more pressure to produce than Díaz. Coming off a year in which he blew seven saves, took seven losses and posted a 5.59 ERA, Díaz is no lock to reclaim his old closer’s job -- particularly with late-inning relievers Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia all in camp, as well. But in the Mets’ perfect world, Díaz will pitch the ninth inning more often than not, rediscovering the form that saw him save 57 games with a 1.96 ERA for the Mariners in 2018.

To that end, Díaz spent the winter making changes at home in Puerto Rico, working with Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and various team wellness staffers. He began throwing earlier than usual, hoping to refine his slider. Wednesday, Díaz felt good with that pitch, but he bemoaned a lack of fastball command.

“I left a couple in the middle,” he said, “and I want to be able to paint the corners with that fastball.”

“I thought he missed spots,” added manager Luis Rojas. “I thought he wanted to elevate and missed down. I thought the slider was really good. … He got swings and misses, got some chases. Those … come from the electric fastball.”

Hard sliders
In past springs, Noah Syndergaard has come out blazing, dialing his fastball as high as 101 mph.

On Wednesday, Syndergaard was focused more on his primary breaking pitch. From 2016-18, Syndergaard averaged 92 mph with his slider, regularly pumping it up to 95, but that dipped to an average of 89 mph last season as the right-hander battled mechanical issues. He’s trying to take a simplified approach this spring, freeing his mind of mechanical worries to pursue the goal of “just trusting my delivery and ripping it.”

That manifested itself Tuesday, when Syndergaard threw his slider in the low 90s while blanking the Astros over two innings of his spring debut.

“I did like the slider,” Syndergaard said. “It was back to close to the velocity that I wanted.”

Buy the Mets? Not Piazza
Mike Piazza arrived in Port St. Lucie this week, spending time golfing with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon on Tuesday before reporting to camp as a special instructor the following morning. Asked if he might consider purchasing a controlling stake in the Mets, Piazza laughed.

“Right now, no, unless my investments come in,” he said. “And the market the last few days, I don’t think I’ll be writing any big checks.”

Sports ownership would not be a new concept for Piazza, who purchased a Serie C soccer club in Italy earlier this decade. That experience ended poorly for Piazza, with the club going into bankruptcy. Although he left the door open to acquiring another team in the future, Piazza did not sound interested in pursuing ownership of anything -- soccer, baseball or beyond -- in the near-term future.

“I got a whole new understanding of how difficult it is to run a sports franchise,” Piazza said. “For me, that was a blessing because as a player, I took it for granted.”

The Wilpon family’s negotiations to sell the Mets to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen fell through on Feb. 6. The family has since announced its intent to pursue a sale to someone else, though details of that process have not emerged publicly.

Speed and defense
The most impactful player for the Mets in Wednesday’s loss was non-roster invitee Ryan Cordell, who replaced Brandon Nimmo in the starting lineup about 20 minutes before first pitch. Cordell proceeded to finish 2-for-4 with a homer, a bunt single and a diving catch in center field.

In Mets camp, Cordell is competing with Jarrett Parker and others for a spot on the bench. His status is tied at least in part to Yoenis Céspedes, whose Opening Day status is up in the air.

“The big thing was just what I bring athletically -- speed and defense,” Cordell said. “I know that was something that the Mets wanted to improve on, so that’s something that I brought to the table.”

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.