Closer Edwin Diaz returned to the Mariners Friday after a memorable run with the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.
The dyed-blond hair Edwin Diaz sported during the World Baseball Classic in solidarity with his Puerto Rican teammates will soon be gone.
“Now that I’m in Seattle, I need to put it in black,’’ said Diaz, who returned to the Mariners on Friday following a three-week stint in the WBC.
Much else of what Diaz displayed during the WBC, though, he plans to bring back with him — notably, the emotion he memorably showed during an electrifying two-inning relief stint in a win over the Netherlands Monday that served as one of the tournament’s signature moments.
“Keep doing the same thing I was doing in the WBC,’’ said Diaz.
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It may simply make sense that Diaz, who turned 23 on Wednesday, might come out of his shell more now that he is established in the Major Leagues — a year ago, he was preparing to begin the season in Class AA Jackson.
But Diaz said the WBC experience also gave him a realization.
“I feel happy when I pitch like that, show my emotion,’’ he said.
The differing styles of the Latin American teams in the WBC and the United States team drew a lot of attention throughout the tournament.
Ian Kinsler of the United States went as far as to tell the New York Times that he hoped kids watching the tournament would “appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Diaz, though, offered no apologies for the way he and his Puerto Rican teammates played — Diaz memorably leapt of the mound thumping his chest after retiring the Netherlands in the 11th inning.
“All the Latin teams do the same thing, they show their emotions every out, every inning, every hit, every homer,’’ he said. “… I want to show more emotion this year. I feel more happy then.’’
One person Diaz doesn’t have to worry about accepting a more open approach this season is Seattle manager Scott Servais.
“I like players to show emotion,’’ he said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. And if the guys in the other dugout have an issue with it, that’s their issue. It’s how the game should be played. I think that’s why people are watching these (WBC) games. You see it from of people – the emotion is great and this and that. Now we all understand to do that for 162 games — it’s not football, it’s not one a week. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing.’’
The Mariners had acquiesced to Diaz remaining with the Puerto Rico team for Wednesday’s championship game against the United States despite his two-inning stint on Monday. But Diaz wasn’t used as the United States won in an 8-0 rout.
Servais said he thought the tournament atmosphere would help Diaz — who pitched in 49 games last year as a rookie — more than anyone on the team.
Diaz agreed that he hopes the experience foreshadows more pressure situations to come this year.
“I know I needed to be in that situation because if we make the playoffs this year, that’s the kind of situation I need to pitch in this year and do my job,’’ he said.
And Diaz said despite what his outward apperances might have indicated, he was calm when he needed to be.
“Everybody was nervous but I was relaxed in the moment,’’ he said. “I needed to just follow the catcher.’’
Told he hardly seemed relaxed, Diaz playfully protested.
“I was relaxed!,’’ he said. “I was excited about making pitches. I showed a lot of emotion. But when I was making my pitch, I was relaxed.’’
The Mariners also breathed a sigh of relief that Diaz made it through the tournament without excessive wear and tear or injury.
“I feel great,’’ Diaz said. “I pitched two innings. I’m ready for the season right now. ‘’
Not that the last few days haven’t been a whirlwind.
After the championship game in Los Angeles Wednesday, Diaz accompanied many of the rest of the teammates for a celebration in Puerto Rico in Thursday and was back in Peoria to finish up spring training by Friday morning.
While the team had come up short of its ultimate on-field goal, Diaz said the tournament in many ways served a far greater purpose.
“When we got together in Arizona (training for the tournament) we said, ‘we want to win, but we wanted more to get the people of Puerto Rico together, make less crime, unite them,” he said. “And we did that. During the past week, nothing happened in Puerto Rico bad. Everybody watched … In that moment, we wanted to get everybody together in Puerto Rico. That was our main goal.’’
Seeing it first-hand Thursday, Diaz said, brought the point home that much more.
“They did a parade for us,’’ he said. “And to see us in Puerto Rico, to see them get crazy in the street, it was amazing.’’