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Mickey Callaway hasn't pulled trigger on Diaz... and Diaz responds

Met closer Edwin Diaz faced five batters Friday

Met closer Edwin Diaz faced five batters Friday night and retired only one of them. He was charged with four runs in the 7-2 loss to the Phillies on July 5, 2019, at Citi Field.   Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Edwin Diaz’s performance Friday night seemed to bring the Mets to the cusp of replacing him as the team’s closer. However, manager Mickey Callaway said before Saturday night’s game that the club wasn’t making a move.

Callaway was asked directly if Diaz is still the Mets’ closer and replied: “Yeah. Going into today, he is.”

And he was Saturday night, picking up his 19th save, giving up one hit in the ninth in a 6-5 victory over the Phillies.

"Now I am happy," Diaz said. "I am excited to be able to go back out there and help the team win because what we’re trying to do at the end of the day . . . get a win for the team ... It just gave me the confidence that my team and my manager believe in me. After having a bad outing against the same team yesterday, to be able to have a game like today, it gives me the confidence I need."

But Callaway also said before the game that Ward Melville product Steven Matz would be a candidate to fill the role if necessary. Matz this week was moved temporarily from the starting rotation to the bullpen, but is expected to resume as a starter sometime after the All-Star break.

“He would be an option based on maybe who is coming up and who we used to get there,” Callaway said of Matz. “The biggest concern I have at this point is that if Diaz isn’t closing and we put somebody else in that closer’s role, how are we going to get to the ninth?”

Matz got into Saturday night's game in the seventh and allowed an inherited runner to score in two-thirds of an inning.

And that may be the crux of why Callaway said Diaz remains his closer despite struggling mightily. The 25-year-old who saved 57 games last season with Seattle is 1-6 with a 5.67 ERA and has blown four saves, as many as he blew for the Mariners all of last season.

“The other personnel is going to have a great effect on what you can do with one guy,” Callaway explained. “If you have four or five guys performing, it’s easy. You take [a closer] out, get him right and insert him back in. That’s not our case.”

Mets relievers entered play Saturday with an aggregate 5.63 ERA, 28th of the 30 major-league teams.

Callaway said the issue with Diaz is “location” on his pitches.

“He’s throwing everything in the heart of the plate,” he added. “I don’t care if you throw 98 or a really good slider — you throw the ball in the heart of the plate and you’re going to get beat up.”

Diaz entered a tie game against Philadelphia on Friday, faced five batters and retired only one and ended up the losing pitcher in a 7-2 final. Callaway said afterward that making a change would be considered.

“We’ll always consider [a change] when somebody is struggling. The questions we ask ourselves are how do we get to the ninth and if we do get to the ninth, who is pitching well enough to take that person’s place?” he said. “It’s . . . who is performaning at a better level that can perform that position . . . We have to have the right guys to fill in to be confident we’ll be better.”

Seth Lugo’s 3.43 ERA was best among the current options. Every other Mets reliever had an ERA over 4. Lugo pitched a scoreless eighth inning Saturday night.

Another issue Callaway mentioned with regard to potentially changing Diaz’s role was psychological. He said that when members of a bullpen have established roles and “when you take them out of that role, they are going to take a hit, so you have to understand that first and foremost.”

Then getting Diaz right would involve figuring out the right situations to build him back up — high-leverage or low-leverage — and whether going through all that “might hurt more than what’s going on right now.”

Jeurys Familia might have been the obvious candidate to take over the job because he’s been a closer, but he, too, has not pitched well.

The Mets felt they might have gotten him back on track after he spent time on the IL last month with a shoulder issue when he threw a scoreless inning in the series with the Yankees this past week. But more recent results show he isn’t. Familia replaced Diaz on Friday and allowed two inherited runners to score plus a run of his own while getting one out.

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