Mets plan to keep Diaz in closer role

July 7th, 2019

NEW YORK -- When asked Saturday if struggling reliever is still his closer, Mickey Callaway paused for a long moment before answering.

“Yeah,” the Mets' manager finally said prior to Saturday's 6-5 win over the Phillies. “Going into today, he is.”

The reason, Callaway said, is twofold. Given the more general struggles of his bullpen, which entered Saturday’s play sporting an 8.01 ERA since May 27, Callaway does not feel confident any of his other relievers would be better at closer than Diaz, who was 0-4 with six saves, four blown saves and an 11.20 ERA over his last five outings entering Saturday. The right-hander, however, bounced back with a scoreless ninth to lock down Saturday's victory.

Moving someone from the middle innings to the ninth is also concerning to Callaway because he is unsure how the Mets would build a middle-innings bridge with a key link removed.

“We won’t ever count it out, but we also have to have the right guys to fill in that we are confident it’s going to be better,” Callaway said.

As such, Diaz remains the closer for now. The Mets’ top alternatives would be , who entered Saturday with an 11.12 ERA over his last five outings, and , whose season mark was 7.76.

Callaway also said he must be careful about shaking Diaz’s confidence too much. The Mets are committed to him, presumably as their closer, for three more seasons. While Diaz has produced a 5.67 ERA overall, his strikeout rate of 14.9 per nine innings remains elite. That ranked fourth in the Majors among pitchers with at least 30 innings.

“It’s about location,” Callaway said, citing both faulty mechanics and a lack of confidence as the reasons for Diaz's struggles. “He’s throwing everything over the heart of the plate. And I don’t care if you throw 98 [mph] or throw a really good slider -- if you throw the ball in the heart of the plate, you’re going to get beat up.”

From the trainer’s room

Outfielder Michael Conforto reported to Citi Field on Saturday with a tight back, but the issue resolved itself in time for Conforto to bat cleanup against the Phillies.