As Edwin Diaz struggles with confidence, Mets mull closer's role

Edwin Diaz's struggles continued Saturday in Miami as the Mets’ closer allowed a four-run, ninth-inning lead to melt away in an eventual 10-9 extra-inning defeat to the Marlins.

After the game, manager Carlos Mendoza said that Diaz, who has now allowed seven earned runs in his last three outings over 2.1 innings with two blown saves, is “still our closer.”

“You gotta stay the course,” Mendoza said after the game. “You gotta stay positive with him because he’s too good of a pitcher.”

However, with both the manager and closer pointing to the right-hander’s confidence level as the biggest concern, Mendoza left the door open for Diaz to work in lower-leverage situations and possibly move out of the closer role for a period.

“Obviously when you have one of the better pitchers, the best closer in the game going through the way he’s going, I think it comes down to the confidence level,” Mendoza said. “He's right now, you could tell that he's putting pressure on himself cause he's not getting results. But we'll continue to work with him and he'll get through it.”

When asked if moving Diaz to a lower leverage spot until his confidence returns is possible, Mendoza said that is something they will talk about.

“I gotta talk to the coaching staff, I got to talk to Edwin, whether you know we want to find him some softer spots to kind of get him going, he still our closer,” the manager said. “And he will get through it. He's too good of a pitcher for him to continue to struggle for a long time.

“Like I said we will have these conversations and see what we got.”

Diaz said he doesn’t think he needs to take a break from the closer spot but is willing to have a conversation with the Mets about a change to his role.

“They’re trusting me, they will give me the ball. And as soon as I step on the mound every day and if they give me the ball tomorrow, I will do my job tomorrow,” he said.

When asked specifically about the plans for a conversation, Diaz said he is “open to everything” and he wants “to help this team to win, that’s my main thing.”

“If they want to talk to me about [moving out of the closer role] and I feel good about it and I agree, I just want to win games,” he said. “I think any position they put me, I wanna win games… when they need me in the ninth I will be back.”

However, confidence – not health – was the main thing Diaz pointed to as his biggest concern.

“My confidence I feel like it's down right now,” he said. “I’m making pitches, I’m throwing strikes, I’m trying to do my best to help the team to win. Right now, I’m not in that capacity.”

Diaz added: “Confidence is the main thing for a player. I think if your confidence is high, you will perform the way you want to, when [you have] low confidence like I was feeling today a little bit, I was trying to make pitches and get my clean inning and tried to reinforce my confidence, but that wasn’t it today.”

While still working in the ninth inning, Saturday’s outing wasn’t a save situation for Diaz as the Mets held a four-run lead. But Mendoza said he wouldn’t “necessarily call it a softer spot” for Diaz.

“I wanted him in the game, it’s a four-run lead, I felt good with where we were at and, you know, he’s one of the best guys you got there,” he said. “He’s just struggling right now and we couldn't get the three outs there.”

If Diaz has to come out of the closer role for a stretch, is Mendoza worried that could further negatively impact his confidence?

“This is some of the conversations that we need to have with him,” the manager said. “He’s working through some things mechanically, too. So we just gotta get him back to the basics.”

Physically Diaz said he “feels 100 percent” and his body is “not my issue,” but he is “thinking too much.”

“That’s really been tough for me in the game,” he said about thinking too much on the mound.

In the ninth inning, Diaz recorded just one out of the five batters he faced and threw 15 pitches, eight sliders and seven fastballs. His average fastball velocity was 97.2 mph and went as high as 99.1 mph. And Diaz's heater got three whiffs on four swings, only allowing an infield single.

But the slider was a different story.

“His slider was all over the plate today,” Mendoza said. “It didn’t do much today and they got him.”

There were two called strikes on his slider, but on four swings the Miami hitters came up with three hits and four runs: a ground-rule double to left center (103.1 mph of the bat), a single to right (100.9 mph) and a 428-foot three-run homer to center (107.9 mph).

“I just threw it right in the middle [of the plate], I missed it,” Diaz said of the slider. “I want to throw it down in the zone, but I just missed it and I got [hurt].”

Mendoza said earlier in the year Diaz’s struggles were linked with fastball command and his slider “had depth,” but “today that wasn’t the case.” with the once devastating slider acting “more like a cutter.”

“But the [velocity] was there,” the manager added. “He’s working through some things mechanically and like I said he’ll be fine.”

The next step for Diaz will be to “watch videos and get with the pitching coaches,” but the Mets will “continue giving him the ball and he’ll get through it.”

For Diaz, the path to regaining his confidence is to “keep working.”

“Trusting myself, I think that’s the main thing for me,” he continued. “...Today I was feeling very well, I was throwing my fastball, my slider. I missed a couple sliders right in the zone… but I gotta keep trusting myself.”