Díaz likely out for season after knee surgery

Mets believe bullpen depth will help weather loss of dominant closer

March 17th, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mets closer suffered a complete patellar tendon tear in his right knee during Puerto Rico's celebration after defeating the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Díaz underwent surgery to repair the tendon on Thursday afternoon in Florida, with the procedure performed by Dr. David W. Altchek.

The timeline for such an injury is around eight months, according to general manager Billy Eppler. That would mean Díaz, who signed a five-year, $102 million contract with the Mets this offseason, would likely miss the entirety of the 2023 season. Eppler did not give an exact timeline, saying that some athletes have returned from such a surgery in six months, but that they are the exception.

"We will see how the recovery starts and how much he is able to weight bear and how active he is,” Eppler said. “I’m thinking we are not updating this timeline for a while.”

The 28-year-old Díaz is coming off his best season in the Majors, an All-Star campaign that included 32 saves, a 1.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 62 innings. The Mets' relieving corps has taken a hit this spring, with Díaz's injury being the most high-profile. In recent days, Brooks Raley suffered a hamstring strain, Bryce Montes de Oca suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow and Sam Coonrod strained his right lat.

“Obviously, tough blow. No doubt about it,” teammate Justin Verlander said about Díaz. “One of the best closers in baseball, if not the best. Losing that is not easy. But I don’t think any team -- I can’t think of any team that has gone through an entire season without a major blow. It’s a tough game to stay healthy. It’s just tough to have it at this point of the year. The optimism is so high and everybody is ready to go, when that happens, it’s tough.”

The Mets' other options with closing experience include and . Left-hander Zack Britton, who has experience playing for manager Buck Showalter, is still available on the free-agent market. Robertson recorded 30-plus saves in three consecutive years with the Yankees and White Sox from 2014-16.

“We built a bullpen that we walked into the year -- on paper -- that we felt was pretty deep,” Eppler said. “We have a good amount of guys that have a good amount of closing experience on our roster right now. … As far as the immediate, that is going to be the conversations that [Showalter], myself and [pitching coach Jeremy] Hefner have as spring rolls on. It’s going to get opportunities for other people.”

Robertson is capable of taking on the closer’s role. Last year, he saved a combined 20 games for the Cubs and Phillies with a 2.40 ERA. He said he came to the Mets to win the World Series.

“Moving forward, we have to figure out new ways to get outs later on in the game,” Robertson said. “We have the talent here. We have to go out and do it.”

Showalter reminded the media in attendance that the Mets also fought through a plethora of injuries last year. The team still won 101 games. He believes there are relievers on the current roster, along with potential additions from outside the organization, can help fill the void that Díaz leaves in the bullpen.

“Some are already here. We are trying to add as many things as we can,” Showalter said. “Edwin is obviously a loss. But nobody is saying that he is going to be easy to replace.

“I was looking at all the pieces we were missing last year -- [Jacob] deGrom, Taijuan Walker, Starling Marte, Carlos Carrasco was out for a while. Tylor Megill was out. Max Scherzer was out. Eduardo Escobar was out. Luis Guillorme was hurt. Trevor May and Tommy Hunter [were injured]. It just reminds you that everything is going to get tested along the way.”   

The injury to Díaz occurred after he struck out Teoscar Hernández to end Puerto Rico's 5-2 victory over the D.R. and then walked off the mound toward home plate, clapping. His countrymen streamed out from the dugout, embracing him and hopping up and down.

Moments later, the group separated and waved toward the dugout for assistance as Díaz sat on the ground, his right leg extended. The celebration stopped, and players from both teams looked on with concern.

Eventually, Díaz was helped off the field and put into a wheelchair, then rolled down a concourse beneath the stands. His brother, Reds relief pitcher Alexis Díaz, could be seen crying, his arm around one of his teammates.

However, Edwin Díaz was in great spirits when he talked to Eppler on the phone Wednesday night. In fact, Díaz told his boss, “Don’t worry, I’m fine. It doesn’t hurt.”

“He is a resilient human being. That’s why he is the closer that he is. The dude doesn’t get rattled,” Eppler said. “That’s the athlete that we have come to love.”

Showalter found out about Díaz’s injury via text from center fielder Brandon Nimmo. After that, Showalter received a ton of calls about Díaz.

“It’s sad for him personally, the way I looked at it, regardless of how it affects anything else,” Showalter said. "[Third base coach] Joey [Cora] kept me up to speed. It’s all about [Díaz], not necessarily how it affects us. That’s how we are with it.”