HomeTrending MLB NewsDiaz’s Appearance Provides Meaning to an Exhibition Game

Diaz’s Appearance Provides Meaning to an Exhibition Game

These Spring Training games aren’t supposed to mean anything. They’re not managed with appropriate strategies. The batting orders are often illogical. Tie games end after 10 innings, even if they’re still tied. And while there are some who keep track of spring wins and losses, those records are tossed away and immediately forgotten by the time Opening Day arrives.

In Monday night’s game against the Miami Marlins, the Mets brought their closer into the game in the 5th inning. For anyone not paying attention, this game seemed as trivial as any other this time of year. For the Mets, their fans, and most importantly, Edwin Diaz – the closer in question, this moment carried plenty of emotional weight.

When we last saw Diaz on a ball field, he was being helped off on a wheelchair after he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. That was after a earning the save in a Puerto Rico team victory in last year’s World Baseball Classic. Chances are you know the rest of the story; in case you don’t though – Diaz missed the entire 2023 season, and despite some strong efforts from veteran pitchers, the Mets bullpen never fully adjusted.

Of course, how could you adjust to losing a pitcher of that magnitude. Diaz’s 2022 season was the best season by a closer in Mets history, and one of best in baseball history. He finished that year with a 1.31 ERA, 32 saves in 35 chances, an incredible 118 strikeouts in only 62 innings, and a miniscule 0.839 WHIP. It was about more than just the saves for Diaz that season; it was also about redemption. To go back even further, Diaz came along with Robinson Cano to the Mets from the Mariners in December of 2018. The Mets gave up plenty to get them, and Diaz’s terrible 2019 drew the fanbase’s ire. He showed the ability to live up to expectations in the COVID-shortened 2020, and then landed somewhere in between in 2021.

For Diaz, 2022 didn’t just live up to his early-career hype, it surpassed it. Instead of coming into the game to a chorus of boos, or even some vocal anxiety, when Diaz walked onto the field in 2022 it was a cause for celebration. His famed entrance music, “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet, wasn’t about striking fear into the hearts of the upcoming batters, it was about celebrating the inevitable win because the 9th inning was a mere formality.

And then, in 2023, in an instant, it was gone. After the immediate tears subsided, and following the successful surgery, Diaz began his recovery period. When it made sense, he would share photos and videos of him doing the things that non-injured players do, or for the fans, they were images that represented hope. There was even talk of him taking the major league mound before the season ended, in what would have been a truly remarkable, and ultimately unnecessary, move.

Instead, he recovered, he rehabbed, he prepared. Then on Monday night in Port St. Lucie, in a game that otherwise didn’t count for anything, he returned. And even though the game was played in front of approximately 5,000 fans in Clover Park and not 42,000 in Citi Field, Edwin Diaz walked onto the field to a standing ovation, with his theme music playing, and warmed up like it was nothing special, even though it was.

In his postgame press conference, Diaz confessed to having to putting effort into keeping his emotions in check. “I was just trying to control my emotions in that moment because I knew I had to do my job. It’s a spring training game but I was treating this game like regular season.” he told reporters.

Simply by taking the mound on Monday night, Edwin Diaz provided a sense of comfort to a team and a fanbase that hasn’t really felt that way since he was wheeled off the field a year ago. Now, if this were a movie, all the history and all the emotion and all the hard work would have propelled Diaz to strike out the side on 9 pitches. Of course, this isn’t a movie, and this moment wasn’t scripted, so it took him 13.

When the game ended, the scoreboard proclaimed the Marlins the winners of the game. In reality, it was the Mets who came out feeling victorious.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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