Díaz's closer duties 'fluid' amid recent struggles

May 19th, 2024

MIAMI -- The day after manager Carlos Mendoza insisted remains the Mets’ closer, the skipper admitted that the reliever’s role will, at least for now, be more “fluid.”

“This is a guy that, he'll do whatever it takes to help this team win a baseball game -- whether that's pitching in the seventh, eighth, ninth, whatever it is,” Mendoza said prior to New York's 7-3 win against the Marlins. “Now it's up to me and all of us, as the game progresses and things unfold, to make that decision where I want to use him. But he's willing to do whatever it takes.”

The move, which is in part aimed at helping Díaz regain confidence in himself and his arsenal, comes on the heels of three blown leads in his past three outings and three blown saves in his past six games. His ERA after 18 appearances sits at 5.50, with five saves in eight opportunities.

It’s been a tough start to the season for Díaz, particularly after Saturday night -- in which Díaz entered the ninth with a 9-5 lead, then gave up four runs (including a three-run homer) while recording just one out. It also didn’t help that, in the middle of this rough stretch, Díaz returned to the very mound where a fluke injury ended his 2023 season before it even began.

Now, the Mets are rallying behind Díaz -- in whatever role he takes -- and hoping to get their lights-out closer back to his 2022 form. That includes both working with him on the pitching side, but also providing interpersonal support -- much as Francisco Lindor and Sean Reid-Foley did as Díaz broke into tears following his media scrum on Saturday night.

Lindor stood next to the reliever, a barrier between Díaz and media members who were on the other side of the room, rubbing Díaz’s back as he sat at his locker with his head in his hands. It was a tender moment between teammates, and a reminder that these players are human beings first and foremost.

“He cares so much, and for him to be pitching like that -- he takes it personal,” Mendoza said, “and that says a lot about who he is as a person, as a player, and how much he wants to win and how much he wants to get the job done for this team. And I told him, he'll get through it. We'll help him get through it. …

“At the end of the day, Edwin is a huge part of this team. For us to get to where we want to get, we need Edwin Díaz to be himself. Right now, he's going through it. He's going through a rough stretch, and our job is to get him back on track.”

Part of getting Díaz back on track will involve the rest of the bullpen stepping up. On Sunday, it was Reed Garrett’s turn. And he delivered, with a scoreless eighth and ninth en route to the save. Adam Ottavino was also available, should Garrett have gotten into trouble in the ninth.

“It’s going to be one day at a time," Mendoza said postgame, “and putting guys in a position to have success. So we’ll mix-and-match and see what we got.”

Said Garrett: “We all believe in [Díaz]. … We all know that he’s elite when he’s right. And we know that we’re going to do everything we can to get him right. So whenever my name is called, I’ll pitch. But as a collective unit, we all believe in Edwin and we know what he can do.”