‘Tremendous’ Edwin Diaz hoping to build off Mets turnaround

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PORT ST. LUCIE — There is not much from 2020 that the general population would like to repeat this year.

But the Mets and Edwin Diaz have a case.

Diaz bounced back in the Mets bullpen last season after a disastrous first campaign in Queens and believes he can use it as a springboard for the full 162-game season this year — even if the Mets don’t officially name him their closer.

“I think last season was really important for me,” Diaz said through an interpreter Tuesday at Clover Park. “I had a tremendous season last year. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, but I know my mindset in my preparation is to be the closer of this team.”

Manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday that he wanted to maintain flexibility in having Diaz as an option to pitch in the seventh or eighth inning, based on matchups, but that the right-hander may well end up getting the most ninth-inning opportunities. If Diaz can look more like his non-2019 self, though, it will hardly matter what the Mets call him.

After posting a 5.59 ERA with seven blown saves in his first year as a Met, following the trade with Robinson Cano from the Mariners, Diaz gave up a run in two of his first three appearances last season before allowing three earned runs over his final 23 games. He still blew four saves on the season, but none came during the Mets’ playoff chase in September, when he gave up just one run in 11 ²/₃ innings while striking out 20.

Edwin Diaz at spring training.
Edwin Diaz at spring training.
for the NY POST

Diaz’s walks were up in 2020 (from 3.4 to 4.9 per nine innings), but he stopped getting crushed by the long ball (from 2.3 to 0.7 home runs per nine innings).

“I think the biggest difference was the location of my pitches, being able to command my fastball and my slider,” Diaz said, attributing his improved command to slight mechanical tweaks he made after watching video.

The Mets showed interest in some of the top free-agent relievers on the market this offseason, but ended up adding Trevor May and Aaron Loup, who have mostly been used as setup men. That would leave the bulk of the save chances for Diaz, who believes he can sustain his 2020 performance — in particular the late movement on his pitches that made him more unhittable.

“The stuff is tremendous, electric,” Rojas said. “He’s a guy we have full trust in and he should be one of those guys that pitches at the end of the game, if not the guy that gets the most chances pitching at the end of the game.”



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