PORT ST. LUCIE — Edwin Diaz appeared stuck in 2019 as his first appearance of the new Grapefruit League season progressed Wednesday.
The electric stuff was there, but the results weren’t for the Mets reliever. Diaz, peaking at 98 mph, missed with his fastball location and withstood a fourth inning in which the Astros scored two runs on three hits against him, in the Mets’ 4-2 loss at Clover Park.
“I felt good out there,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “A little bit anxious because it was the first time being out there in a real game and facing real batters, but other than that I felt really good.”
Any anxiety wasn’t evident to manager Luis Rojas.
“When he came to the dugout, nothing, he was calm and under control,” Rojas said. “He was excited how the ball felt out of his hand, he was just missing spots and that was the only thing he was talking about that he will want to work on, probably do better in this outing. But he’s happy with how the stuff was and so are we. It looked really good.”
Aledmys Diaz drove a shot over Dominic Smith’s head in left field for an RBI double in the inning after Michael Brantley singled. Dustin Garneau smashed an RBI double down the left-field line later in the inning.
“I was competing out there,” Diaz said. “I was just trying to compete, make good pitches out there. After the two runs that I gave up I felt I was able to settle in and threw the pitches that I wanted to the way that I did out there.”
Diaz’s inning consisted of 25 pitches, which included a strikeout. Noah Syndergaard and Justin Wilson had combined to pitch the first three innings scoreless.
“I liked the stuff again,” Rojas said, referring to Diaz. “It’s electric. The fastball coming out of his hand, I thought he missed spots, thought he wanted to elevate and missed down. I thought his slider was really good. Maybe one backed up, but every single one I think he did finish. He got some swing and misses, got some chases, those swing and misses come from the electric fastball.”
Diaz underwhelmed with the Mets last season after arriving with Robinson Cano in the trade that sent top prospect Jarred Kelenic, among others, to the Mariners. In 66 appearances, Diaz went 2-7 with a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves, raising questions whether he can handle the New York spotlight. In the second half of the season he was removed from the closer’s role.
Whether Diaz regains his old job will likely hinge upon his spring. Other potential options for the closer’s role include Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Wilson and Seth Lugo. Last season, Lugo and Wilson shared the job after Diaz was removed from it. The highest ceiling among the others might belong to Betances, who is looking to rebound after missing almost all of last season with a shoulder impingement and torn Achilles.
Diaz indicated he’s trying to compete in spring training, not just work on his pitches.
“Spring training is for working on things, but it’s also the results, I care about the results a lot,” Diaz said. “So I go out there and try to get the best results possible and I expect my results to be good this spring training.”
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