|Edwin Diaz in action for Puerto Rico earlier this week. @Mets on Twitter.|
Wednesday, March 15, 2023 will turn out to be one of the most consequential days in Mets history, as they saw two distinct visions of what their upcoming season could be, and frankly, their long-term future.
In their spring training game in the afternoon in Port St. Lucie, newly-acquired ace, Justin Verlander, threw an incredible game and looked like the pitcher they envisioned when they brought in the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner this past December.
Pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals, he allowed just one hit, which didn't come until the fifth inning, and struck out eight with no walks. As they said repeatedly on the SNY broadcast, he looked like he was "in midseason form."
The euphoria continued into the night, as Mets fans saw Francisco Lindor get two hits, an RBI, and score two runs, and Edwin Diaz look dominant in the ninth inning to close out a 5-2 win for Puerto Rico over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
Then, out of nowhere, as Fox was showing the celebration, the camera turned in an instant to Puerto Rico's players surrounding a player who hit the deck.
The Mets' worst nightmares about their numerous star players partaking in the WBC were realized, as it was Edwin Diaz on the ground grabbing his leg.
Diaz would be carried off by two of his P.R. teammates after it was clear he could not put any weight on his right leg, and eventually was put into a wheelchair.
Any hope that it wouldn't turn out to be as bad as that appeared, as sometimes happens with injuries that look horrible when they happen, were dashed when the Mets made this announcement around 1 P.M. on Thursday afternoon on Twitter, "Edwin Diaz underwent imaging today that revealed a full-thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee. He will have surgery today performed by Dr. David Altchek."
Additionally, Mets General Manager Billy Eppler announced that there is a rough timeline of eight months for the injury, essentially ruling Diaz out for the 2023 season.
This is crushing news for the Mets, as Diaz was the best closer in baseball last season, a virtual automatic when he came out of the bullpen to close out games. He had 32 saves, with 118 strikeouts in 62 innings, with a 1.31 ERA.
The Mets wasted no time signing him once the offseason commenced, as he was signed the day after the World Series ended to a five-year, $100 million contract.
Even with big names like ace Jacob deGrom and center fielder Brandon Nimmo as free agents, the Mets made clear who was the number-one priority. A reliable closer is the key to everything in baseball now, even more than having two elite aces in Verlander and Max Scherzer who had two significant injuries himself last season, but let's stick to one concern at a time.
Now, the Mets bullpen, even though they have proven veterans like Adam Ottavino and David Robertson, becomes like any other team's, that nothing is guaranteed in the final innings.
It shows that, for all Mets owner Steve Cohen spent this offseason, with a payroll of around $340 million, there are some things you can't control.
Even with that much invested, it still was not guaranteed the Mets would be better than the defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves, who won the World Series in 2021 and snatched the division crown from the Mets at the end of last season.
Diaz's injury also comes just days after it was revealed that one of their new starting pitchers, veteran left-hander Jose Quintana, will be out until July after he suffered a stress fracture on the fifth rib on his left side.
Quintana was one of two Mets free agent signings, along with Japanese right-hander Kodai Senga, who has also been hit with the injury bug. Last weekend, Senga was diagnosed with tendinitis after he felt pain in the base of his right index finger. The outlook on his injury improved after he threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, and is scheduled to pitch for the Mets in their game on Thursday night against Washington.
Quintana and Senga were signed to take the places of right-handers Chris Bassitt, who went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA last season, and Taijuan Walker, who signed with the Phillies after going 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 2022.
Wednesday for the Mets encapsulated the roller-coaster of an entire season in one nine-hour period. It already shows that, where a lot went right in 2022 for a team that won 101 games, second-most in franchise history the 108 games won by the 1986 team, that's how quickly plans can be dashed in an instant, where the other shoe can drop, or in this case, can land awkwardly in a celebration.