“I know out of the four missed saves we won two of the games and we lost two,” Diaz said through a performer before the Mets face the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. “So what I’m trying to do is help the team stay in the game, so they can win this game and ultimately be able to help them advance to the playoffs.
This bears little resemblance to Diaz’s disastrous first season with the Mets, in which he gave up 15 homers in 58 innings and threw a 5.59 ERA. Diaz returned home to Puerto Rico last offseason, determined to improve, and got it right.
Overall, he was the strongest link in a bullpen that lost Seth Lugo last month to fill a void in the starting rotation. But it didn’t help Diaz’s cause that one of his meltdowns happened at Yankee Stadium in the Subway series. Since giving that kick-off to Aaron Hicks, the right-hander had made six appearances without allowing a run, entering Wednesday.
He was asked if there was anything to be said that throwing fans away this season into baseball fields has reduced the pressure and helped him thrive.
“I don’t think it is,” Diaz said. “As professional athletes we expect to have fans in the stadium and this is how we are preparing. This offseason – I know last season didn’t go the way I wanted – I prepared even harder and also with the hope that there would be fans in the stadium.
“I think if we had had fans this year the results would be the same as I have now because I put a lot of work into these results.”
A turning point for Diaz may have come after a shaky performance against the Red Sox early in the season. Diaz, who had not pitched for five days, told manager Luis Rojas he needed more frequent work. Rojas largely stuck to a Diaz launch schedule every two days, until last week. When Diaz entered Tuesday’s game, he hadn’t pitched for almost a week.
But Diaz, who struck to the side in his round against the Phillies, said he stayed sharp by throwing his bullpens like they were match-game situations.
« [Diaz] worked hard to get to this point, ”Rojas said. “His confidence level is really high. He matches things up. We’ve always heard that his stuff is electric. There was this game [against Boston] where he was really moved when he played and he didn’t get strike calls. There were different things going on and I thought things were going a little too fast for him, but I think this guy did a great job just adjusting by coming back.
“He told us one thing, just that I want to throw more. When you are used in the role of a loved one, sometimes there is a special situation where you do not come four or five days in a row, which just happened to him. He told us the more we used it the better it was, and we challenged him, saying that we were going to use it sooner, in different situations when it happened, and he got presented every time.