PHOENIX -- The Padres threw Miguel Diaz straight into the fire, as he returned to the big leagues for the first time this season. The 23-year-old right-hander kept his cool -- and made a bit of history in the process.Diaz, who was recalled prior to Sunday's game, pitched two scoreless
PHOENIX -- The Padres threw Miguel Diaz straight into the fire, as he returned to the big leagues for the first time this season. The 23-year-old right-hander kept his cool -- and made a bit of history in the process.
Diaz, who was recalled prior to Sunday's game, pitched two scoreless frames in the Padres' wild, 4-3, 16-inning victory over the D-backs on Sunday afternoon. His 11th inning would prove particularly remarkable.
Diaz became the second pitcher in Padres history to notch four strikeouts in an inning, joining Luke Gregerson, who accomplished the feat in October 2009. He's just the third player in recorded Major League history to post four Ks in an extra inning, joining Toronto's Steve Delabar (2012) and Mike Bolsinger (2017).
"I felt really good," Diaz said through a team interpreter. "I was just going out there trying to get the job done. I was coming into a tight situation with the game tied. I knew if any runs scored, that the game would be over, so I really just tried to calm myself down, attack and execute pitches."
Diaz had already recorded a pair of punchouts when Chris Owings came to the plate with the winning run on second base. He chased a curveball in the dirt for strike three, but the ball got away from catcher Austin Hedges.
Owings reached safely on a wild pitch, bringing Jonathan Jay to the plate. The potential winning run advanced to third, but Diaz wouldn't flinch. He whiffed Jay on a 98-mph fastball.
"I had to dig deep and calm down the adrenaline and find a way to get outs," Diaz said.
It marked the first time this season that the Padres' Rule 5 efforts from a year ago have paid dividends.
Prior to the game, San Diego recalled Diaz from Double-A San Antonio. Kazuhisa Makita, who threw 61 pitches in Saturday's loss, was optioned to Triple-A.
Diaz was the freshest Minor League arm currently on the 40-man roster. That was the reason for his callup, and given the beleaguered state of the Padres' bullpen, it proved a savvy decision.
The Padres are eager to see what Diaz has to offer with a little Minor League seasoning under his belt. After making the jump directly from Class A to the Majors last season, Diaz posted a 7.34 ERA in 31 appearances.
In 17 outings between Double and Triple-A, Diaz owns a 3.79 ERA this season, though he's walked 35 hitters in 54 2/3 innings.
"He's had a ton of life to his ball in the Minor Leagues this year," said Padres manager Andy Green said before the game. "He's had probably too many walks. But, there's a lot to like about him, and that's why we took him last year in the Rule 5."
In December 2016, general manager A.J. Preller maneuvered to land the top three picks in the Rule 5 Draft. He took Diaz first, followed by catcher Luis Torrens and infielder Allen Cordoba. Per Rule 5 stipulations, all three had to remain on the big league roster for the duration of the season. They did, and the Padres became the first team since at least 2000 (and possibly ever) to carry three Rule 5 picks for an entire year.
Because of their big league service time, none of the three are technically considered prospects. Regardless, they're still viewed as integral pieces of the Padres' future. Diaz is the first of the group to return to the Majors.
The Padres feel Diaz could potentially fill a role similar to that of Matt Strahm -- a starter/reliever hybrid, who can work multiple innings and fill a number of different roles in the 'pen.
"He can play in that 3-4 inning relief role," Green said. "Long-term, he could potentially be a starter for us. ... He's got that kind of life and that juice in the arm and length as well. For him, it's about commanding the fastball. If he commands the fastball, he's going to have a bright future."
• Outfielder Matthew Szczur cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A El Paso. Serving mostly as a pinch-hitter/pinch-runner/defensive replacement, Szczur batted .187 in 84 plate appearances this season.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.