Edwin Díaz will return to closer role with Mets when he comes off injured list Thursday

NEW YORK (AP) — Edwin Díaz will go right back into the closer role with the New York Mets when he returns from the injured list Thursday.

The struggling reliever has been sidelined since May 29 with a right shoulder impingement. Before going on the IL, he blew three straight save chances and four out of five — which didn’t even include a May 18 meltdown in Miami when he squandered a four-run lead in the ninth inning but wasn’t charged with a blown save.

“For us to make a run at this, we’re going to need Díaz to be Edwin Díaz,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said Wednesday before a 10-4 victory over Miami. “We’ve been trying to piece it together for the past month or so. He feels good physically and mentally, so comfortable with him going back to the closer spot.”

After missing last season because of a knee injury, Díaz is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA and five saves in 20 appearances — a far cry from his dominant performance on the mound in 2022.

Following his flop against the Marlins, the Mets went four games without using Díaz before he was summoned in the seventh inning May 24 versus San Francisco. He struck out two in a scoreless inning, then blew a save chance the following day when he wasted a one-run lead in the ninth inning of a loss to the Giants.

He hasn’t pitched in the majors since. After being placed on the 15-day IL, the 30-year-old right-hander made two rehab appearances with High-A Brooklyn, striking out three over two scoreless innings. He threw a bullpen Tuesday.

“Pretty confident that he’s in a good spot and he’ll get going here,” Mendoza said.

With their star closer struggling and then unavailable, the Mets lost six games between May 5 and June 2 despite taking a lead into the ninth inning. New York (29-37) has blown 11 save opportunities this season.

Mendoza said Díaz has been working with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner on improving the shape of his slider and fine-tuning his fastball command — especially to the glove side.

“Little details there. But the biggest thing is that he’s feeling really good, not only physically but mentally,” Mendoza said.

Last month, Díaz acknowledged his failures affected his confidence and said he believed he was thinking too much on the mound and needed to trust himself a little more.

Mendoza said he can tell Díaz’s confidence is back.

“Just having conversations with him. The conviction — you can see it on his face,” Mendoza said. “Wasn’t the same guy when he was struggling. You could tell he was feeling it a little bit. But the past couple of days, and then watching him pitch, even though he’s facing minor league hitters, you could tell he’s in a good spot and ready to go.”

Díaz, a two-time All-Star, was baseball’s most dominant closer in 2022, striking out 118 batters in 62 innings while saving 32 games for New York and compiling a 1.31 ERA.

He re-signed with the Mets on a $102 million, five-year contract but tore the patellar tendon in his right knee while celebrating a win for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in March 2023. The injury required surgery and cost him the entire 2023 season.

“You’ve got to give them the ball. You can’t hide, you know? The best way is like, go get the last three outs,” Mendoza said. “He’s done it before. He’s struggled before. He’s been there and got through it before. So, he’s been in this league for a long time and it’s just a matter of us continuing to have that confidence in the player.”

In other injury news, Kodai Senga (right shoulder capsule strain) threw a bullpen and probably will need two more before he begins facing hitters again, according to Mendoza. The team’s projected No. 1 starter has been out all season.

“Looked good. Used all of his pitches,” Mendoza said. “He was smiling after he got done throwing, so that’s a good sign.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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