Puerto Rico pitcher Edwin Diaz reacts after striking out Dominican...

Puerto Rico pitcher Edwin Diaz reacts after striking out Dominican Republic pinch-hitter Jean Segura in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. Credit: AP/David Santiago

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — From his hospital bed in West Palm Beach, Edwin Diaz had a message for Mets fans on Thursday night.

“To all my beloved fans, especially the Mets fans, I want to let you know that I am doing well and healing,” he wrote on social media. “I feel blessed and grateful for your support with messages and prayers, thank you very much! I can’t wait to see you guys in NY again and play those trumpets.”

Mets fans’ hopes of seeing Diaz enter a game while trumpets blare at Citi Field in 2023 are almost nonexistent, though. The closer tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in an on-field celebration with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night.

As the Mets try to figure out how to replace the best closer in baseball in their suddenly thin bullpen, Francisco Lindor explained why playing in the WBC is so important to players that they are willing to risk injury that disrupts the teams they are getting paid to represent during the MLB season.

“I understand how Mets fans are hurting. But while for so many people the regular season is what counts, playing in the WBC means just as much to all of us,” Lindor told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “It is the dream of every Puerto Rican ballplayer to wear Puerto Rico’s colors and to represent our country. And not only Puerto Ricans, but every player in the WBC considers being here the ultimate honor.

“We don’t want injuries to happen, but it is part of the game. Of course, this is sad for all Mets fans. And I want to thank them for being so concerned about us, and about Edwin, and I really do also feel your pain.”

“We’re going to do this for our country, and also for Sugar [Diaz’s nickname],”  Puerto Rico infielder and former Met Javier Baez said before Friday night's quarterfinal against Mexico. “I can’t express to you what that clubhouse feels like. It feels super-motivated by what happened — to win for Sugar.”

But Lindor, Baez and Puerto Rico took another painful blow Friday night. After scoring four runs in the top of the first inning, Puerto Rico was shut out the rest of the game and was eliminated, 5-4.

Puerto Rico winning the WBC for Sugar would not have been sweet for most Mets fans, who hoped to see Diaz celebrate a World Series title at Citi Field, not a WBC crown from a hospital recovery room.

Diaz is expected to be out eight months after undergoing surgery on Thursday. Mets general manager Billy Eppler said some athletes can make it back in as little as six months, so there is a slim chance Diaz could return late in the season or even in the postseason.

The Mets are still a formidable club without Diaz, who went 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA, 32 saves and 118 strikeouts in 62 innings in 2022, but their bullpen is now an issue. David Robertson (157 career saves) is the most likely candidate to replace Diaz as closer, though manager Buck Showalter declined to commit to that in the aftermath of Diaz’s injury.

At the moment, the sure pitchers for the Opening Day bullpen are Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith.

On Friday, the Mets announced they had claimed righthander Dennis Santana off waivers from Minnesota. Santana, 26, has appeared in the majors with the Dodgers and Rangers. He is 7-14 with a 5.12 ERA and one save in 134 games.

“People think highly of him and [we’re] going to add him to the mix and see where he might help us,” Showalter said. “He’s got a good arm.”

Righthanders Stephen Nogosek, John Curtiss, Tommy Hunter, Jimmy Yacabonis and Elieser Hernandez are candidates, along with lefthander Joey Lucchesi. Lefthander Brooks Raley pulled a hamstring while preparing for the WBC with Team USA. It is uncertain if he can be ready for the opener on March 30.

The Mets also could use the loser of the battle for the No. 5 starter’s spot between David Peterson and Tylor Megill in the bullpen.

Eppler will be on the lookout for additions via trade. Former Yankees reliever Zack Britton, who closed for Showalter in Baltimore, is still a free agent, and the Mets have some interest.

One small consolation for the Mets is that Diaz’s $18.64 million salary for 2023 will be paid by MLB via insurance because he was hurt in the WBC. Diaz re-signed with the Mets in the offseason for five years and $102 million.


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