Díaz won't pitch for Mets this season: 'It's too risky'

September 18th, 2023

MIAMI -- Six months of rehab have yielded significant progress for Mets closer , but they won’t result in a return to a big-league mound this season.

Díaz will not pitch down the stretch following surgery on March 16 to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee, according to pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. Instead, Díaz will continue to throw bullpen sessions with an eye toward entering the offseason strong.

“It’s too risky,” Hefner said. “I’m not as concerned about the pitching. It’s more about fielding and a ball getting hit back at him and he has to get out of the way, and really it’s about covering first base and covering a bunt. I have very little concern about him pitching at the moment.

“If we were in a different situation as a team, we definitely could have pushed to the point where he’d probably be pitching in games right now. Obviously you saw with our team this year, he’s an integral part. We can’t do anything to risk next year by reinjuring an already unprecedented injury. That’s where we’re at right now.”

Manager Buck Showalter declined to speak about the team’s thinking on Díaz, but said: “You’ve got to be careful about doing something just because of curiosity.”

Díaz will throw bullpen sessions through the end of September, including potentially a simulated game against live hitters. He will continue to perform knee rehab exercises into the offseason, but then he should have a normal offseason in terms of arm care thanks to the way in which he ramped up this summer.

Last year’s National League Reliever of the Year, Díaz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee while celebrating Team Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic in March. He underwent emergency surgery and has spent the ensuing six months rehabbing with an eye toward at least pitching in a game or two down the stretch. But that calculus changed when the Mets fell out of contention, leaving the team with little reason to risk Díaz’s health.

The surgery carries a typical recovery timetable of around eight months, which would take Díaz into November.

Still, Díaz has progressed at such a rapid pace that had the Mets been in contention, he might have been pitching in MLB games already. Even just the idea of doing so was a helpful motivational tool during the rehab of Díaz, who struck out 118 batters over 62 innings with a 1.31 ERA last season.

“I think he gets it,” Hefner said. “At the same time, holding that carrot out there has helped him. Not that he wouldn’t have been a pro or wouldn’t have been in tune with his rehab and stuff like that, but it’s different when you know you’re not going to be in a game.”

The 29-year-old Díaz, who signed a five-year, $102 million contract last November, is under team control for four more seasons.

“He did everything in his power to get back to pitching in games,” Hefner said. “We just didn’t do our job on the team side in allowing him that chance.”