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Edwin Diaz faces hitters for first time since knee injury: 'I feel 100 percent ready'

"I feel 100 percent ready."

The above was said by Mets closer Edwin Diaz on Thursday, minutes after he faced hitters for the first time since suffering his freak, season-ending knee injury last March at the World Baseball Classic.

Diaz, who likely would've returned late last season if the Mets were in contention, said he was throwing at 80-to-85 percent effort on Thursday, with a fastball that reached 96 miles per hour. He also mixed in some sliders.

"I'm really happy," Diaz said. "Big step for us. Can't wait to keep going forward."

He added: "I think that was my biggest step, to come here and face hitters. I know I'm good, my legs are good. ... I wanted to face hitters. Finally, we did it, and we are really happy."

Diaz said that he had a "pretty normal" offseason, with the only difference being some extra focus on strengthening his legs as he followed the program laid out by the team.

Speaking before Diaz, manager Carlos Mendoza said his closer is "ready to go."

"We know what he went through last year, and for us to be able to watch him face hitters today for the first time is a really good step," Mendoza explained. "It's just how is he gonna bounce back, having conversations tomorrow and the next day and making sure he's not trying to do too much right now. The fact that he got on the mound and was able to face hitters is exciting."

Added Mendoza: "He knows himself better than anybody, and obviously he's been in this organization a couple of years now. The training staff have a pretty good relationship, and they have a pretty good read on the player. For us, it's important for him to go through his normal routine, the way he prepares. That's what he showed today, so that's good to see."

Of all the things that befell the Mets in 2023, losing Diaz was perhaps the biggest blow. And his absence had a huge trickle-down effect on the bullpen and the team overall.

Perhaps the best quote from or about Diaz on Thursday came from Francisco Lindor, who succinctly and aptly summed up what having Diaz back means for the team.

"What will he do for the team? He'll bring energy and security."