Edwin Diaz injury overshadows Puerto Rico's victory at World Baseball Classic
PHOENIX — Two thousand miles away from a World Baseball Classic celebration gone terribly wrong in Miami, where ace closer Edwin Díaz suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee while surrounded by jubilant teammates following Puerto Rico’s electric victory over the Dominican Republic, there was also shock and sadness in the Team USA clubhouse Wednesday night.
The news was especially devastating to Diaz’s teammates on the New York Mets, Pete Alonso and Adam Ottavino.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” Alonso said after the United States booked a trip to Miami and the WBC quarterfinals with a 3-2 victory over Colombia at Chase Field.
“He’s one of the big guys for us. I just got out of the shower. I haven’t really talked to anybody about it. Hopefully, I can get a hold of Eddie. He’s worked really hard to get where he’s at. He’s not only worked really hard to reinvent himself, but he was just an absolute force last year — to get where he was at was just incredible. He’s such a great teammate. I feel frustrated for him.”
Ottavino, who was one of Díaz’s setup men for the Mets last season, said he was in Team USA’s bullpen when he heard the news.
“Guys came down and told me in the fifth inning or so,” Ottavino said. “Obviously, it was a kick in the gut there a little bit. I don’t know that we know anything definitively yet, but it’s not good. I’m worried about him.”
Ottavino said he watched a video of the Puerto Rican celebration after Díaz struck out the side in the ninth inning, one that ended with Díaz being lifted up and placed in a wheelchair to be taken off the field while his brother, Alexis, dissolved in tears.
“I saw it just now,” Ottavino said in a hallway outside the Team USA clubhouse. “It kind of looked strange. … I didn’t get a great view of it, but it was a sad scene. I know he was really excited to pitch in that game tonight and obviously did a great job for that to happen. It’s obviously a gut punch.
“It’s a fluke thing. It could happen any time, in any situation. It does stink for the (Mets), but obviously I’m thinking about him. He’s my friend. I’m just worried about him.”
Díaz ranked as one of baseball’s most entertaining acts last season, emerging from the Mets bullpen to the pulsating sounds of Timmy Trumpet’s “Narco.” With a fastball touching 100 mph, the 28-year-old right-hander struck out 50.2% of the batters he faced (118 of 235), a rate that ranked the third-highest in major-league history.
He also saved 32 games, sported a 1.31 ERA and averaged 17.1 strikeouts per nine innings, a mark second only to Aroldis Chapman’s 17.7 K’s per nine in 2014. In December, the Mets rewarded the two-time All-Star with a five-year, $102 million contract, the richest in history for a reliever.
When Ryan Pressly, the Houston Astros closer who has been at the center of numerous postseason celebrations, polished off Colombia by striking out Jordan Diaz (no relation to Edwin) to secure Team USA’s victory, the reaction was muted. Catcher Will Smith slowly walked to the mound to shake hands with Pressly. Teammates exchanged quick embraces, and then the U.S. squad quickly assembled into the fist-bumping recessional typical of a regular-season game.
Pressly was originally announced to be available in the interview room, but MLB media officials subsequently said he was not available to answer questions. So it’s not known whether his low-key celebration was influenced by the calamity that befell Díaz.
Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said he was unaware of what happened in Miami until a reporter brought it up.
“Really?” said DeRosa, who from the time he was hired to manage the U.S. has said that returning players to their big-league clubs healthy was one of his foremost goals. “I just feel for Edwin, feel for the Mets organization. Just an unbelievable moment.
“We were watching the game. I had to hit the dugout around the seventh inning; I kind of lost track of it. Guys get super excited playing for their country. It’s a shame something like that had to happen.”
Mike Trout, who had three hits and drove in all three of Team USA’s runs, and Mookie Betts, whose aggressive baserunning placed him in position to score what proved to be the deciding run, both said the experience of playing in the WBC outweighs the risk factor. It’s almost certain that Díaz’s injury will inspire more debate about the risk-reward benefit of having highly paid stars participating in a tournament that’s held at a time of year when players are preparing for the MLB regular season.
“I talked to (Adam) Wainwright about this last night, before the Canada game,” Trout said. “This is the funnest experience I have had on a baseball field, to represent your country. It's been a blast.
“Obviously, there's risk involved. You're still playing baseball, and it's spring training. For me, being part of this atmosphere, it's special. It means a lot to me. And I knew going in, it was going to be a fun time. But I never knew it was going to be this fun. We've got a pretty good team in there, and it's fun to come to the ballpark every day.”
Betts, who shared a postgame podium with Trout, said he agreed with his fellow superstar.
“I mean, those things, they can happen to anybody at any given time,” Betts said. “And you can always try and place blame on the WBC, but that's just a freak accident that could happen to anyone at any given time.
“But to echo what Mike said, this is so much fun. It's so much fun. And this is way better than getting four at-bats in the back fields. I encourage those who are watching (to) come join, come play for Team USA, because this is a lot of fun.”
But not if your name is Edwin Díaz. Not on a night that will loom as one of the most memorable of his career but for all the wrong reasons.