Francisco Lindor #12 of Team Puerto Rico throws to first...

Francisco Lindor #12 of Team Puerto Rico throws to first base for an out during the first inning against Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals at loanDepot park on March 17, 2023 in Miami, Florida. Credit: Getty Images/Megan Briggs

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — When celebration yielded to confusion, Francisco Lindor came in from his spot at shortstop, saw a group of anguished teammates huddled around someone on the ground and didn’t know what was going on.

But then he saw the custom-made cleats, emerging from the masses, bearing trumpets. It was Edwin Diaz, all-world closer for the Mets and for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

In the moments after Puerto Rico beat the archrival Dominican Republic in an elimination game last Wednesday, Diaz suffered a full-thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee while celebrating the win. Within 24 hours, he had surgery that likely ended his season.

“It was heartbreaking,” Lindor recalled Monday, his first day back with the Mets after Puerto Rico lost in the WBC quarterfinals. “I never knew I loved Edwin so much until I couldn’t stop crying. That’s when I realized I loved Edwin a lot.

“It was one of those moments that you wish you could go back and do in slow motion so no one goes through that. It broke my heart. It did not feel good. Edwin kind of calmed the team a little bit and he talked to us [that night]. The emotions were — it was a very, very sad clubhouse.

“I had [tears] on the field. I had them in the clubhouse. I had them at the hotel the whole entire time. it was unfortunate.”

Injuries to Diaz and the Astros’ Jose Altuve, who broke his right thumb when he got hit by a pitch while playing for Venezuela, raised a natural question: Is competing in playoff-intensity games in March worth the risk?

Lindor and the Mets’ other returners — third baseman Eduardo Escobar and catcher Omar Narvaez, who both suited up for Venezuela and also came back to camp Monday — joined what has become a chorus of WBC players who have answered with a resounding, enthusiastic yes.

Injuries happen, they say. Altuve’s was a standard, if unfortunate, baseball mishap. Diaz’s was just bizarre. The WBC experience overall is unforgettable and invaluable.

“It can happen here at spring training, it can happen during the season, at your house, whatever,” Escobar said. “Celebrating, jumping right there? It’s so weird.”

When the tournament comes around again in 2026, Lindor — Puerto Rico’s captain — plans to play again.

“Every time I have the opportunity to represent Puerto Rico and have Puerto Rico across my chest, I will give everything I got,” he said. “The participation should still be there. These are injuries that none of us want. None of us. None of us. They hurt. They [stink]. They feel terrible. I can understand everyone’s emotion. Believe me, I have those emotions too.”

Narvaez echoed: “If I can do it again, I’ll do it again.”

Escobar and Narvaez received minimal playing time but had nothing but positive things to say about their experience. Lindor noted that Puerto Rico played in an environment louder than Wrigley Field during Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, in which he played for Cleveland.

“It’s one of the most special experiences I’ve had in my career,” Escobar said. “It’s a different vibe, the energy, you play for your country, people from your country support you . . . All game, no matter what the score, people crying for you. Whew. It’s unbelievable.”

Narvaez added: “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Even playing in the postseason in 2021 — this was more intense. You’re playing against the best of the best of every country, so it’s not a joke.”

Now the Mets, who will be whole again once Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Adam Ottavino rejoin after playing with the United States in the championship game Tuesday, will move on to the actual season without Diaz.

“We have to focus on what we have. We have to focus on what we have,” Lindor repeated. “We have a really good team. A lot of guys are resilient.

“Are we going to miss Edwin? A hundred percent we are. He’s a huge part of our team. I think he’s the best closer in the game. But we’re all professional, we all got a job to do and we gotta go out there and take care of business.”


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