Edwin Diaz’s 2024 spring debut offers Mets promise of return to dominance

Edwin Diaz Mets
Edwin Diaz (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The evening of March 11, 2024, down in Port St. Lucie, FL provided notes of Autumn 2022 in Queens with undertones of trumpets and dominant pitching.

New York Mets star closer Edwin Diaz returned to the mound in a competitive capacity for the first time since suffering a torn patellar tendon in his knee while celebrating with his Puerto Rican national teammates during the World Baseball Classic 12 months ago. 

He looked like his normal, untouchable self who struck out more than half of the batters he faced in 2022 on his way to winning Reliever of the Year honors. After entering to his trademark song, “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet, he struck out the side in a clean fifth inning against the Miami Marlins. 

“Three strikeouts in the first outing is amazing,” Diaz said. “It was crazy. I heard the people screaming and everything and 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 it like a big-league game, controlling my emotions and my pitches.”

Mets pitcher Edwin Diaz
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger, file)

It took just 14 pitches, which generated seven swings-and-misses while the fire-balling right-hander struck out Jesus Sanchez, Avisail Garcia, and Jon Berti on sliders — all swinging. His fastball topped out at 98 mph.

Most importantly for the Mets, he came out of the outing feeling good after extensive work on the backfields of the club’s spring training facilities over the last month.

“I threw a lot of lives and two backfield games, so I was making sure my pitches were the way I wanted them before I stepped on a big-league mound,” Diaz said. “So I knew it would be good.”

An ability to hit the ground running in this capacity is a just reward for the 29-year-old’s work ethic to recover and rehab his way back from what was a devastating injury. While the Mets’ bullpen could not recover from losing him in a disappointing 2023 season, Diaz not only hit every benchmark in his recovery but exceeded them to the point of the team toying with the idea of getting him back on the mound in the majors before the end of the season.

With them out of postseason contention, however, there was no need for unnecessary risks. That allowed a full offseason for Diaz to be ready and 100% for Opening Day 2024 where he will be the centerpiece of a bullpen that does not inspire the same sort of confidence ahead of him.

“He was special from the very beginning,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “I experienced the trumpets on the other side of the dugout [when I was a coach with the Yankees] but it’s good to be on the same side now. I thought he controlled his emotions well, just a really good day for us.”

For more on Edwin Diaz and the Mets, visit AMNY.com