Diaz looked sharp in his first outing since being demoted.
Edwin Diaz’s return to the closing role for the Mariners could come on the upcoming road trip. The young flame-throwing right-hander made his first appearance since losing the job earlier in the week, tossing two scoreless innings in 2-1 loss to the White Sox on Friday night.
Beyond the scoreless results, Diaz’s outing provided some hope that the mechanical changes he’s working on with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre will provide some consistency and the ability to make in-game adjustments.
“I felt pretty good,” Diaz said. “It was a pretty good step for us, getting back to my mechanics.”
The outing also left manager Scott Servais feeling good about Diaz returning to his expected role.
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“I feel very confident that if he keeps moving in that direction, he’ll be back doing the ninth inning solo and we can get back to him being our bullpen anchor,” Servais said. “That’s what we’re trying to get back to.”
Diaz pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two weak hits and striking out two batters and walking none. He threw 29 pitches and 20 of them were strikes. The extended outing earned him a day off on Saturday.
“We’ll let him regroup, but I was really encouraged by what we saw,” Servais said. “That was one of his better outings of the year, maybe his best outing for the year. He commanded the fastball to the glove side, he had an idea where it was going. He stepped off the mound a few times and you could see him kind of gather himself and said, ‘Ok, this is what I’ve got to do.’ He’s starting to get those checkpoints down so he can get himself back on. And I thought his slider was good, too.”
Diaz could feel himself getting quick with his delivery — the root of his mechanical issues — and he was able to recognize it and make an in-game adjustment. It was something he hadn’t been able to do in prior outings.
“I just stepped back and think about what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I just tried to control everything in my delivery. I tried to get my body back and throw my pitch. It’s supposed to feel like that every day.”
The Mariners desperately need Diaz to get back to his former self so he can return to being the closer and the bullpen roles can be reset to their intended plan. They are currently using the closer by committee based on situations and availability late in games. How much more would they need to see from Diaz to do that?
“We’ll take one more good one and see where we’re at,” Servais said. “You can see how the bullpen is being managed, we’re trying to match up and try to see who is available, probably even more so than the matchup. Next time out there, he could be out there in the ninth. Last night, he did pitch in the eighth and ninth inning. We needed to pitch him and that’s what the game called for.”
Mitch Haniger returned to the field after taking two days off in his recovery from an oblique strain. He participated in a full workout and could go out on a possible rehab assignment as early as Monday. Haniger could join Class A Modesto for a handful of games.
Robinson Cano participated in the full pregame workout and took an intense round of ground balls at second base. He will run the bases on Sunday to test his strained quad. All indications are that he will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday for the start of the upcoming road trip in Washington D.C.
The Mariners still haven’t determined a Sunday starting pitcher. The possibilities include lefty Dillon Overton, right-hander Casey Lawrence or calling up a starter from Class AAA Tacoma.