Astros get versatile Díaz back from IL

July 27th, 2021

SEATTLE -- The Astros got a key member of their offense back in the fold Monday when they activated veteran utility infielder off the injured list. Díaz missed 41 games after fracturing his left hand when he was hit by a pitch June 5 against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y.

“I’m so excited,” Díaz said. “It’s a month and a half after I broke my hand, so I was very excited to be back with the team, especially for this road trip. We got San Francisco coming, Seattle is playing good and then the Dodgers. I’m excited to be here with the team.”

About 10 days after Díaz went down, starting third baseman Alex Bregman strained his quad and has been on the injured list since, leaving the Astros with Abraham Toro and Robel Garcia to cover the left side of the infield on most days. Garcia was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land to make room for Díaz.

Díaz, who can play third base, second base, first base, shortstop and left field, wasn’t in the lineup for Monday’s series opener at Seattle, but he is expected to get the lion’s share of the playing time at third base until Bregman comes back. Bregman began a Minor League rehab assignment Monday with Sugar Land.

“He’s our backup shortstop, our backup first baseman, backup second baseman,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Díaz. “Toro is playing today, and he had a good day [Sunday] and I wanted him to feel good about himself. I’ll play Díaz [on Tuesday] and I want to give him a few at-bats before he faces a tough [Yusei] Kikuchi on Wednesday. With Díaz’s history of leg injuries, even though he’s doing great, we still have to monitor his play and keep him stronger because we certainly can’t lose him again.”

Díaz, like several of his teammates, is now wearing a padded batting glove on his left hand. He even called Hall of Fame slugger Jeff Bagwell, who suffered a broken hand three years in a row (1993-95) when he was hit by a pitch. Bagwell began wearing a large pad on top of his left hand, but Díaz’s is less noticeable.

“With a lot of pitchers throwing two-seamers inside, it’s something you have to use,” he said. “You don’t want to miss six to eight weeks. A lot of guys are using it and I’m going to use it for the rest of my career.”

Bagwell broke his hand for the first time in September 1993 when he was hit by Philadelphia’s Ben Rivera and missed the final 20 games. In 1994, his National League MVP season, he was struck by San Diego’s Andy Benes -- just two days before the players’ strike ended the season. He missed a month after Brian Williams of San Diego hit him with a pitch on July 30, 1995.