Edwin Diaz has a goal in sight: He wants to pitch this season.
Whether or not his right knee will cooperate is another story, but so far his rehab from a torn patellar tendon is going so smoothly that the Mets closer is eying a late September return.
“The goal is I want to pitch this year,” Diaz said Monday, speaking to reporters for the first time since April. “But I’ve got all the checkmarks to check off and we have to see what’s coming up.”
A typical timeline for a return is six-to-eight months. September would put the 29-year-old right around the six-month mark. Diaz is still a few weeks off from having to make a decision, but he hopes to hit enough rehab benchmarks to be able to return before the final game of the season in October.
Diaz hit a major benchmark Sunday when he threw his first outdoor bullpen. He didn’t face hitters, but he did throw off a mound to a catcher. It was the first time he pitched in a scenario that might mimic a game and came through without any setbacks.
“I think because yesterday, the catcher was down and I was concentrating to make my pitches and try to throw like it was a game,” Diaz said. “The other time I was just playing catch from the mound. Yesterday, I was trying to throw strikes to make my pitches. That’s why I call that my first bullpen off the rubber.”
The next step will be facing hitters in live batting practice.
Diaz underwent surgery for the injury that occurred in March while he was playing for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic. It came on the heels of his record five-year, $102 million contract. It was a devastating blow for a Mets team that had title aspirations at the time but was forced to abandon them by the middle of the summer. Many of the Mets’ struggles can be attributed to the bullpen. The relief issues can’t be pinned on Diaz, especially since the problems tend to lie more in the middle innings, but it left an already thin bullpen even thinner.
The Mets are out of the race now, having dismantled the team at the trade deadline, which was strange for Diaz to watch from the sidelines. Given that, the club has not yet decided whether or not they will bring back the All-Star should he be healthy enough to return. Any setbacks would be disastrous for the organization and the focus now is on the future.
“We’ll get his opinion and see what feedback he’s getting physically,” said manager Buck Showalter. “You can tell by his face that he’s pretty excited about where he is compared to where he could be. It’s just good that we haven’t had any setbacks with him in the process. He’s made the temptation to go faster — which we haven’t — because he has met everything.”
Diaz is willing to do what’s best for the team, but allowing him to throw a few innings this season could be a morale boost for a closer who is eager to follow up a historically good season, and for a team still grappling with what comes next.
“I want to finish the season on a positive note,” Diaz said. “I want to try to come back and help his team win this year, but if not, I will work out hard in the offseason to come ready next year.”
Outfielder Starling Marte is in Philadelphia working with a physical therapist to deal with the groin issues that have plagued him since his offseason surgery last fall. The operation was performed last October in Philadelphia, but it’s unclear whether or not he is working with the same doctor or medical group. He’s expected to be there through the end of the week.
The hope for a return in 2023 is dwindling. Marte played through pain all year and bringing him back for a meaningless month seems a little pointless. However, the club isn’t yet ready to say they are shutting him down.
Marte is in the second year of a four-year contract and will be a key piece of the 2024 team should he be healthy.
Right-hander Tyson Miller was claimed off waivers by his former team in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. Tuesday, the Dodgers added him to their active roster. The Mets previously claimed the reliever off waivers Aug. 4 and designated him for assignment last week to clear space on the 40-man roster for right-hander Sean Reid-Foley.