MLB

Edwin Diaz encouraged by key pitch’s sharpness with Mets closer off to dominant start

The Mets haven’t had much to be happy about through an 0-4 start, but Edwin Diaz’s scoreless first two outings after missing all of last season are definitely worthy of blaring the trumpets.

The All-Star closer struck out two in a perfect ninth inning of a 10-inning loss Monday night to the Tigers, after also posting a zero Saturday against the Brewers.

“I feel great, felt way better than the first game,” Diaz said Monday night. “I came and tried to keep the game close and give the team a chance to win.

Edwin Diaz celebrates on the mound.
Edwin Diaz celebrates on the mound. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“My confidence is high. … Right now I feel 100 percent ready to go.”

The 30-year-old Diaz hadn’t worked in a save situation yet for the winless Mets, but he faced seven batters over two appearances and retired six, allowing only a two-out single to Brice Turang on Saturday in his first big-league appearance since Oct. 9, 2022 in a playoff game against the Padres.

Diaz missed all of last season with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee suffered while celebrating a victory for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic in March 2023.

“Physically, I feel 100 percent, man. I feel really good and I feel like I can field my position really good,” Diaz said, although he believes it’s too early in his comeback to pitch multiple innings. “I don’t think so, because we still have the plan.”

First-year manager Carlos Mendoza said he decided to bring in Diaz in a scoreless game in the ninth rather than with a runner on second base in the 10th because he wanted to avoid extra innings.

“I thought he threw the ball really well. His slider was very effective, the fastball was alive, throwing strikes. I thought he’s looked good in the two outings,” Mendoza said. “We tried to win the game in the ninth. You use your best guy there, give you a chance to win in the ninth. You’re not thinking about extras. When your closer’s available, pitch him right there and try to win in the ninth.”

ets relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) t for the first throws a pitch during the 9th inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Edwin Diaz is back after missing all of 2023 with a knee injury. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Diaz also has been encouraged by the sharpness of his slider already, and he believes his fastball — which hovered in the 96-97 mph range Monday night — will increase in velocity the more he is used.

“I think [the slider is] my primary pitch and [Monday] it was really good. I was commanding it really good,” Diaz said. “I feel like my fastball right now is going up and down, but they say that’s normal.

“Last year I didn’t pitch at all, so I think it’s getting better, and [Monday] it was more consistent than the last time. So I think the next couple of times it will be even better.”

The next test for Diaz will be coming in with an actual lead in a save situation, which he understands Mets fans are dying to see, too.

After his first relief appearance came in a day game Saturday, Diaz noted that he liked jogging in from the bullpen Monday night to his entrance song “Narco” synced to the newly installed LED lighting system at Citi Field.

“It feels great, feels cool,” Diaz said. “I could see the lights turning on and turning off, it was really nice.”

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