Whether Edwin Diaz will be physically capable of pitching in a game for the Mets this year remains a question. An optimistic Buck Showalter said Wednesday that “he might make it” in time, but — always looking to hedge and nervous he revealed too much — he caught himself and added that Diaz also might not.
With less than eight weeks of season to go, though, there is another, perhaps more important question: Is Diaz returning even worth it?
The Mets have had early conversations about that debate, according to Showalter, because everything in Diaz’s recovery has gone so smoothly.
“Edwin’s had a great rehab. Good rehab. He actually looks more fit, cut, whatever you call it nowadays. He’s used the time wisely on other things,” Showalter said.
“That’s a discussion [about whether a late-season cameo is worthwhile] that’s going on now. Because he might make it. Or might not. But we’re not going to push it. I don’t think we’re there yet. He’s not close to being a decision we need to make. But at some point, I’m hoping there’s a discussion that gets more serious. Is it good for him? Is it not good for him? What happens next February when that’s the first time [he gets into a game environment]?”
On one hand, Diaz getting into a game at the very end of a lost season may well give the closer peace of mind about his health going into the offseason and 2024. It also would be a standout moment for the Mets, who have had so little of those this year, though the image of his signature trumpets-infused entrance music blaring at Citi Field as he jogs in from the bullpen is a secondary consideration at best compared to what is best for Diaz.
On the other hand, eh, maybe none of the above matters and it would be better to give Diaz the additional five months of no pitching leading into spring training 2024. That would mean almost a year between appearing in games of any sort. General manager Billy Eppler said at the time Diaz got hurt that a comeback typically takes eight months anyway; that would bring him to November.
It is not clear what Diaz thinks. He has not spoken publicly about his status in months. In the spring, after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee in March while playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, he did not rule out a 2023 return, saying “I might throw this season.” But that was in the context of a presumed playoff run that has not come to fruition.
Wednesday afternoon, Diaz had an extended conversation on the field with Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson, whose wife — Mallory Swanson of the U.S. women’s national soccer team — suffered the same injury in April.
“Is something going to happen here [in a major-league game] that’s going to completely let us know exactly what he’s going to be next April?” Showalter said. “No. Nobody is that smart. So I think I know what the err on the side of will be. We’ll debate that when we get closer.”
The Mets have been clear for weeks that Diaz’s potential return is independent of their place in the standings. But they also, for some reason, have been secretive about his steps forward. Showalter said Diaz has been “starting to do some pitching-relative actions” and that “today was a good step for him, let’s put it that way.”
Last week, Showalter — reading off a sheet of paper — said Diaz’s progress is determined by objective measures, not simply how he is feeling and looks.
“We are undergoing many tests over the coming weeks to guide our decision-making on how aggressively or cautiously we proceed with his progression,” he said. “This is a data-driven process based largely on his strength, power and objective testing to make sure we progress appropriately, rather than basing the decision on time or the eye test.”
DJ Stewart was out of the lineup because he still is dealing with right wrist soreness . . . Starling Marte (right groin strain) has begun treatment, Showalter said: “We feel confident that will head in a good direction. We’ll see if that’s true.” . . . Noting that Pete Alonso is fifth on the Mets’ all-time home run list, Showalter said, “And Pete’s doing it in a ballpark where you got to earn every one of them.”