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New Mets closer Diaz sees first spring action

March 2, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Closers face the daily pressure of matching up against an opposing team’s best with the game on the line, and no reliever did that better than Edwin Diaz last season with the Seattle Mariners. It’s no surprise that Diaz -- who earned an MLB-best 57

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Closers face the daily pressure of matching up against an opposing team’s best with the game on the line, and no reliever did that better than Edwin Diaz last season with the Seattle Mariners.

It’s no surprise that Diaz -- who earned an MLB-best 57 saves a year ago pitching in the American League -- felt little pressure coming into the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in his new digs at First Data Field on Saturday.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure," the right-hander said. "I just have to do my job. I know what I have to do on the mound, so I came with the same mentality as last year -- attack the hitters and get out front in the count and try to end it."

With the Mets up 6-5 in the sixth on Saturday, Diaz walked Jake Marisnick to open the inning. After pinch-runner Ronnie Dawson was caught stealing, Diaz walked Jamie Ritchie. Diaz then worked a flyout to left field and fanned Abraham Toro to end his lone frame.

Not the situation Diaz was used to being in but with the same result: a scoreless inning.

“I was a little bit excited today," the 24-year-old said following his Mets and Grapefruit League debuts. "I flew open a little bit on my shoulder [but] I feel great. My arm’s in shape. I’m ready to go. I have to keep working on mechanics, but my arm felt great today."

Diaz said making his debut this late in Spring Training isn’t unusual to him. Seattle did the same with him last year in the Cactus League, and the Puerto Rican pitcher said he likes pacing himself through the spring as he prepares for the 162-game schedule.

“Last year in Seattle we did the same thing," he said. "I pitched in seven or eight games. We take it easy because I want to be ready for the season. I’m good with seven or eight games. I have to throw a couple of back-to-back games then I’ll be ready for the season."

Former Seattle teammate Robinson Cano has mentored Diaz, expressing to him the pressures of pitching in the Big Apple, but the fireballer said being around a good bullpen will help him adjust, especially knowing Jeurys Familia from his Oakland days and Seth Lugo from the World Baseball Classic.

“We have a great bullpen with [Justin] Wilson, Familia, [Robert] Gsellman and Lugo. I feel pretty happy to be with them in New York and I’m excited to pitch with them this season,” Diaz said.

Mets manager Mickey Callaway liked what he saw from his new closer.

“Electric stuff,” Callaway said. “It looks hard from the side over there. It comes in hot, got great ride to it, and when he clicked the sliders they were really good.”

The two walks didn’t bother Callaway at all, pointing out Diaz’s lack of use this Spring Training.

“He was a little rusty because he hasn’t pitched in a game until today for a while," the manager said. "He’ll get it all honed in and over the plate and be aggressive. His stuff is great."

Callaway also shared the confidence he has in Diaz simply because of the numbers he posted last year.

“We didn’t have Diaz last year,” Callaway said of designating the newcomer in a set role in the ninth inning. “The way he went about his business last year and was probably the best closer in baseball, to take him out of that role would be tough. He’s still a young kid.

“He knows he’s got the ninth and he knows what to expect going in.”