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Rookie Diaz following in Perdomo's footsteps

Rule 5 Draft pick set for 1st big league start Saturday after improving on early struggles
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- In the wake of injuries to members of the Padres' starting rotation, they are handing a start to a Rule 5 Draft pick. Rookie Miguel Diaz, who had never pitched above Class A before Opening Day, will make his first Major League start on Saturday after two months in the bullpen.

Sound familiar? Two months into his big league career, Diaz is on virtually the same course blazed by Luis Perdomo last season. In 2016, Perdomo struggled in April -- unsurprising given that he had never pitched above Class A Advanced. Then he found a groove in May before earning a rotation spot in June.
 

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SAN DIEGO -- In the wake of injuries to members of the Padres' starting rotation, they are handing a start to a Rule 5 Draft pick. Rookie Miguel Diaz, who had never pitched above Class A before Opening Day, will make his first Major League start on Saturday after two months in the bullpen.

Sound familiar? Two months into his big league career, Diaz is on virtually the same course blazed by Luis Perdomo last season. In 2016, Perdomo struggled in April -- unsurprising given that he had never pitched above Class A Advanced. Then he found a groove in May before earning a rotation spot in June.
 

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Video: SD@MIA: Perdomo finishes complete-game win

Perdomo, who parlayed his opportunity into 20 starts in 2016 and a spot in the '17 rotation, is the perfect sounding board for Diaz with an adjacent locker in the clubhouse -- which is surely no coincidence.

"He's always given me a ton of advice, ever since I met him," Diaz said. "He always told me that just because you're a relief pitcher now, don't think that that's it. ... Every time you go out there, treat it like a start, have a routine, use all your pitches, throw strikes, because eventually they're going to give you an opportunity."

Diaz gets his opportunity Saturday against the Royals -- in part because Jarred Cosart was placed on the disabled list this week and in part because he's earned it over the past month.

On May 6, Diaz's ERA shot to 10.67. Since then, he's posted a 2.79 mark, an emphatic response to his early struggles.

"He's never been shaken," Padres manager Andy Green said. "It's just in his DNA. He's a very relaxed kid. That's upbringing, who he is naturally. It's a very good attribute to have, because the game is going to chew you up and spit you out at times. He had that happen to him early on. But I never saw him rattled when I took the ball from him."

Added pitching coach Darren Balsley: "He's been great. He listens. He's a good student, wants to be a dominant pitcher. He has a healthy respect for Major League hitters, which he should. But he's a kid that's got no fear of Major League hitters either -- which is the perfect combo."

Diaz spent last season with Class A Wisconsin in the Brewers' organization. He was playing catch with his brother in the Dominican Republic when he was selected first overall in December's Rule 5 Draft. Having left his phone in the car, Diaz learned he'd be switching teams later than the rest of the baseball world.

Following his struggles last month, Diaz was shut down for a week to hone his mechanics. That week has worked wonders.

"It's been a big turn," Diaz said. "I went through a streak there where things weren't going very well. They were scoring multiple runs off me. But I left all the negatives and took all the positives. It's been a good learning experience."

The Padres view Diaz -- with an advanced four-pitch mix for a 22-year-old -- as a long-term rotation piece. And they feel he's gained enough confidence for his first chance.

"Minus his numbers, he's learned that he can get guys out when he throws the ball where he wants," Balsley said. "That's big. When a kid's facing A-ballers, they get away with their stuff. Up here, it's more command and pitch selection.

"It's like Perdomo. His first half last year didn't go the way he wanted it to go. But he learned if he threw the ball where he wanted to, he's going to get hitters."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Miguel Diaz