How Díaz helps feed pitchers' confidence

April 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- Rockies catcher Elias Díaz finished what was recorded as an "oh by the way" inning on Friday night with an important gesture.

The Rockies’ 7-3 loss to the D-backs was all but decided when relief pitcher Tyler Kinley overcame two walks and left the bottom of the eighth scoreless. At inning’s end, Díaz made eye contact and intercepted Kinley’s path to the dugout with a glove touch of acknowledgement.

Díaz had plenty of long nights last year while making a club-record 126 defensive appearances. Friday came on the heels of Thursday's 16-1 Opening Day defeat that saw Díaz handle most of the pitches. But Díaz understands that at his position, the way he feels shows on his face -- even when covered with a mask.

Even when his facial expression isn’t clear, his body language and energy are always visible to the pitcher, and he’s the only defensive player facing all of his teammates. It’s logical, yet it’s something Díaz doesn’t take lightly.

Díaz parked the Rockies’ first home run of 2024 during Friday’s game. Last year, in addition to earning All-Star Game MVP honors, Díaz set career highs in hits (130), doubles (25), RBIs (72) and total bases (199). Because a struggling Rockies lineup needed Díaz, he finished with 141 total games played -- including eight as the designated hitter, even though he was banged up.

But no matter what he has to celebrate, the bigger part of his job is to celebrate -- or at least uplift -- others.

“I work on body language,” Díaz said. “Nobody wants to make an error. Everybody wants to catch the ball and make a good throw. The pitcher, he doesn’t want to walk people. That’s why we have to watch our body language.”

In Thursday’s opener, starting pitcher Kyle Freeland gave up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings. Anthony Molina gave up six runs in one-third of an inning in his Major League debut. Experienced or not, neither pitcher needed a catcher reacting poorly.

“It’s important because you have to give the pitcher confidence,” Díaz said. “I want him to be confident all the time. If he loses his confidence at the beginning of the season, you don’t know how it’s going to be.”