The Mets may have suffered a setback as their All-Star closer, Edwin Diaz, was reportedly injured during Team Puerto Rico’s postgame celebration in Miami.
Diaz had just made the final out of their 5-2 victory over the Dominican Republic when he was mobbed by his teammates near the pitcher’s mound. He emerged from the celebration unable to put weight on his right knee and was later seen being helped into a wheelchair.
His younger brother Alexis, who is also a reliever for the team, was in tears as he watched Edwin being assisted from the field. Despite the injury, Edwin Diaz managed to record the final three strikeouts of the game, earning Puerto Rico a spot in the quarterfinals against Mexico on Saturday.
Accompanying Diaz at the time of his injury were a Mets doctor and third-base coach Joey Cora, who had traveled with him to the game.
According to a statement released by the Mets, Diaz’s knee will be evaluated using imaging on Thursday, and further information will be provided as appropriate.
“I was hugging our coaches in the dugout. Then when we looked up, Edwin was on the ground,” Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina told reporters afterward. “I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to act, I didn’t know how to — what to say. I mean, I didn’t know. It got me for a surprise.”
Diaz is an essential component of the Mets team, having signed a five-year contract worth $102 million, even before becoming a free agent last offseason.
While the team has other relievers with closing experience, Diaz is irreplaceable due to his exceptional performance, including a 1.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 62 innings last season. He has also become a fan favorite at Citi Field, entering games to the sound of Timmy Trumpet’s “Narco” with blaring horns.
“I don’t think it’s the tournament’s fault,” Diaz’s Mets teammate Adam Ottavino told USA TODAY Sports. “It does stink for the team. And for him.”
Diaz’s breakout ended questions whether he was suited to be a closer in New York, after three seasons of failing to fulfill expectations following his arrival in a blockbuster trade with the Mariners.
Similar to most teams, the Mets were cautious about sending their star players to the WBC, especially with concerns about the potential for injury. Despite this, Edwin Diaz and Francisco Lindor represented Team Puerto Rico, while Eduardo Escobar and Omar Narvaez played for Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Adam Ottavino, and Brooks Raley were selected to represent Team USA. Unfortunately, Raley was already ruled out with a strained left hamstring before the tournament even began, keeping him out of spring training games.
On the other hand, Jose Quintana was scheduled to pitch for Colombia, but he was diagnosed with a stress fracture on the fifth rib of his left side just before leaving for the tournament.
According to the general manager Billy Eppler, the left-handed player will undergo surgery involving a bone graft due to a benign lesion found on his rib. He is expected to return after July 1.
Prior to his participation in the WBC, Diaz had informed Team Puerto Rico officials that he would not pitch on consecutive days. Diaz had also been thrilled to play alongside his younger brother, who is a reliever for the Reds.
While Ottavino and David Robertson have experience as closers, shifting one of them to the closer role would create a void in the setup position.
Currently, the Mets have Raley and Drew Smith secured in bullpen positions, while other pitchers like John Curtiss, Tommy Hunter, Elieser Hernandez, Jeff Brigham, and Stephen Nogosek are competing for the remaining spots.
There are also several notable free-agent relief pitchers available, including Zack Britton, Corey Knebel, Will Harris, and Jeurys Familia.
Sources say that even before Diaz’s injury, Mets officials were considering signing Britton, who was a favorite of former Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
Britton is set to showcase his skills for teams in Miami Gardens on Thursday, and the Mets are expected to be in attendance.