Edwin Diaz’s teammates have reveled in seeing the All-Star up close performing his craft this season.
Among them is Mets trainer Adam Ottavino, who in his 12 major league seasons hasn’t seen a more dominant reliever than Diaz, the 2022 version. Diaz struck out 91 in 45 ⅓ of innings and has not allowed any earned runs in his last 18 appearances. It follows three seasons in which Diaz’s mettle as a closer had been in question, largely due to 17 combined saves.
Ottavino, a Brooklyn native, sat down with Post Sports+ this week to share his unique perspective on Diaz, whose name could be part of National League Cy Young and MVP conversations.
How have you watched Diaz this season?
Adam Ottavino: Not for not right now, he’s the baddest guy on the planet. I think that’s been confirmed. You can’t hit him, he hits everyone and he works fast. He rushes at everyone. He doesn’t back down from anything. He is everything you would want in this role.
What do you think led to Diaz’s transformation?
OA: It throws more cursors now…and it’s a little less predictable. You just can’t sit on the fastball, so you’re… kinda damned if you’re in between against him, because you have to cover 100 [mph] with crazy action then the slider looks like a fast ball. This combo is just awesome, and he obviously has more experience being what he is now. He’s had that kind of arsenal for a few years, so maybe he’s got a little better picks and a little better execution. It just comes with time.
Is there anyone from your major league years that he compares himself to?
OA: The only other people you can compare it to are extreme pitchers: [Craig] Kimbril, [Aroldis] Chapman, [Dellin] Betances – those types of guys that hit batters. Brad Lidge or Carlos Marmol. Guys hitting everyone. It’s his game: “I’m going to take you out, and if you barely survive or put it on the line, too bad.” But my intention is to hit all the guys. He’s just that type of pitcher.
Diaz struggled a lot in his first season in New York (2019) and bounced back to get to that point. How impressive was his recovery?
OA: Granted, all great players struggle in New York at times, but first impressions can be a big deal. He could have lain down or wanted to go out or look for the exit or whatever, but that’s not really who he is. He’s got this mentality, “If I go out enough times, you’ll see how good I am,” and that kind of happened. …I guarantee you he’s evolved into a better mental state because of his struggles, and now he’s more bulletproof. I was booed off the field in a playoff game by fans of my hometown team [with the Yankees]. Going through it hurts, and you stink of joint and you’re embarrassed, but there’s an aspect of: Once you’ve gone through that, you’re not really scared anymore because you’ve been there before and you’re felt and you are fine.
Does Diaz’s name belong in the Cy Young Award conversation?
OA: It’s hard, just because [for] the Cy Young award, I don’t necessarily think it’s the most dominant, I think it’s the best body of work of the year. He’s absolutely maximizing his opportunities, but maybe for MVP I’d give him more consideration because in terms of winning drive, he’s a big part of that for us — a great relief pitcher can do that.
But knowing what we as relievers have to do for the job and what the starters have to do, I would lean Cy Young towards a starter who just throws an insane number of innings and puts the team on his shoulders all the way. year round and makes everyone’s life a little easier and at the same time [is] dominating.
How long until it becomes acceptable to start discussing the Mets’ playoff roster? Well, it’s a sleepy day in August and the Mets have a comfortable lead in Eastern Newfoundland, so let’s get into that now.
The big question: who among Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco and Chris Bassitt is left out of a four-way playoff rotation? This assumes everyone is healthy in a group that would include Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer as numbers 1 and 2.
A lot could depend on the opponent and who is throwing well as September turns into October, but here are some things to consider:
Carrasco (three starts) and Bassitt (two starts) each have playoff experience. Does that give them an edge over Walker, who didn’t pitch in the playoffs?
What trick from this group would play best from the bullpen? For example, would Carrasco or Bassitt, with higher strikeout rates than Walker, help the team more in a relief role? Or would the unusual man in the rotation be delegated to a long emergency relief or would he be completely excluded?
With nearly two months until the playoffs begin, there’s a good chance the rotation question will answer itself. But it’s an interesting topic to start recognizing.
The Mets holding a better record than the Yankees is just another reminder that it’s a long season. In June, it appeared the Yankees would have a chance to eclipse the franchise record for regular season wins (114), and the Mets were heading for a strong 90-win team. It could still happen that way, but the odds are much less likely. Here’s a new one to consider: A 36-14 finish would give the Mets 109 wins, breaking the franchise record set by the 1986 team. The Mets have a weak September schedule, so it’s certainly possible.