Diaz showing no fear in high-pressure spots

'He's a very confident kid,' Servais says of Mariners rookie

July 2nd, 2016

SEATTLE -- Edwin Diaz took the mound in the seventh inning Thursday night with one on and one out. Taijuan Walker had given up a solo home run to start the inning, and the Mariners' 4-1 lead was in jeopardy.

Diaz struck out Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters, dishing out first-pitch strikes to both, to retire the side.

And the youngster delivered again in Friday's 5-2 win over the Orioles, working around a one-out single in the eighth to strike out Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Davis and help preserve Wade LeBlanc's win.

"Diaz is able to handle those situations," Servais said before the game. "It hasn't been an issue so far. He doesn't get overwhelmed by it. He's not looking to strike people out, but when you get two strikes, why not? Go for it. And he's been very good at it."

With a 1.88 ERA, the 22-year-old rookie has become one of the Mariners' most consistent relievers. Thursday was the second time in three games that the hard-throwing right-hander came in with runners on in the seventh. Diaz didn't allow a hit in either appearance.

"He's a very confident kid," Servais said. "He hasn't done it long enough to go through a rough spell, he just goes in there and fires it. What's nice to see, he's continuing to work and develop that slider and it's been really good. It continues to get better and it's going to be the key pitch. You see a lot of guys in this league that throw hard, but the separator is really the secondary pitch."

On Thursday, Diaz's slider was at its best, Servais said. He got both Trumbo and Weiters to swing at it for strike three. As is commonplace for Diaz, his fastball touched 100 mph.

Diaz has been especially important to the bullpen with Joaquin Benoit struggling and Charlie Furbush out with a shoulder injury.

Benoit came in after Diaz on Thursday and gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning. In the game before that, he allowed 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning.

"It's probably more of a mechanical, release-point, timing issue," Servais said. "To see him miss the strike zone by as much as he has late in some counts is very abnormal. That's not him. But we have to keep him going here. I know coming out of the game last night, he wasn't happy with his performance, but he said his arm felt fine and that was not an issue."

Furbush has not pitched since last July. He will throw a simulated game on Saturday, Servais said.