Díaz electric as ever in spring debut, strikes out side

Mets closer 'feels great' after return, sets goal of All-Star Game nod with brother Alexis

March 12th, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Sound the trumpets. The music, “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet, was heard by fans at Clover Park in Monday night's 1-0 loss to the Marlins. It only means one thing: Mets closer Edwin Díaz entered the game and received a standing ovation.

“It was crazy because I heard the people screaming and everything," Díaz said after the game. "I was trying to control my emotions at that moment because I had to do my job, even if it’s a Spring Training game. I treated this game like a regular season.”

It was his first appearance since the Mets were in the postseason in 2022, and the fireballing right-hander didn’t disappoint. He entered the game against the Marlins in the fifth inning and struck out the side. Jesús Sánchez, Avisaíl García and Jon Berti all struck out on sliders, Díaz also adding in a fastball clocked as high as 98 miles an hour.

In all, Díaz threw 14 pitches, recorded eight swings (seven swings-and-misses among them), and notched all three of those swinging strikeouts on sliders.

In a healthy Díaz, the Mets have a player who was the best closer in the National League in ‘22. That year, Díaz had a season to remember, saving 32 games with a 1.31 ERA and winning the Trevor Hoffman Award as the best reliever in the National League.

“He was electric. You knew anytime he was getting the ball, he was shutting the door,” teammate Pete Alonso said. “Once we knew he had the ball, it was over.”

Díaz didn’t play at all last year after suffering a complete right patellar tendon tear during the World Baseball Classic on March 16. His absence hurt the Mets’ bullpen, which went 25-36 with a 4.48 ERA and 34 saves in 52 opportunities.

Díaz thought he would have pitched in September, but the Mets were out of the postseason race by then and he had to wait until Spring Training to get back on the mound.

After all he's been through, even Marlins manager Skip Schumaker was happy to see Díaz back in action.

“That was a tough injury during the [Classic],” Schumacker said. “He's in our division and you don't want to see him ever, because he's pretty good, obviously. But as a fan, you want the best players on the field, and he's one of the best closers. You never want to see an injury like that happen. You felt for him, you felt for the team when that happened, so it was just really good to see him back on the mound. Hopefully he throws three in a row before we get into town, so we don't have to see him as many times.”

Díaz said he wasn’t surprised by his outing on Monday. He was ready to pitch because he threw two Minor League games before making his spring debut.

“I was making sure my pitches were the way I wanted before I stepped on a big league mound,” Díaz said. “I knew I would be really good, but three strikeouts in the first outing was amazing.”

Going forward, Diaz would like to pitch in back-to-back games before the regular season starts. He is going to be needed often if the Mets are in close games.

Before the game, Diaz’s face was glowing, as he was eager to get back to business after such a lengthy time away. Recalling his electric return, he was just as upbeat afterward.

“As of right now, my arm is feeling great. I think I will do it in two weeks, right before we leave Florida,” he said.

This anticipated spring debut behind him, Díaz's goals are high for 2024. Besides staying healthy, he wants to play in the National League All-Star game with his brother, Reds closer Alexis Díaz.

“We talk almost every day,” Edwin said. “I’m really happy how he is performing. [I told him], ‘I’m coming back and we're going to have a great year. It’s a goal as a family to be in the All-Star Game.' I hope we can accomplish it this year. It would be great for him, me and my family.”