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Drayer: How Mariners’ Edwin Díaz enjoys a rare — and deserved — day off

Edwin Díaz: "I have got a tough job so I have got to be focused every day." (AP)

After closing out three straight games and pitching four out of the previous five days, Edwin Díaz knew that taking the ball in the Mariners’ series finale in Baltimore Thursday would not be an option. It was a rare day off for Díaz, who has been available for all but a handful of games this season.

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While it was easy to surmise that he would have the day off because of his recent workload, finding Díaz two hours before the game sprawled out on the dugout bench browsing through his iPhone was the dead giveaway.

“Inside in the clubhouse it’s too cold. Outside, hot,” he said with a smile as the temperatures climbed toward 90 with a full onslaught of humidity. “I try to stay in between.”

Normally on a workday, Díaz can be found sitting in front of his locker, head down, sweatshirt hood on. It’s a very different scene from a year ago when he was much louder in the clubhouse. In spring training that year it was hard to miss him in the middle of everything, and – despite not having not even a full year in the big leagues – dishing it out to his teammates.

This season, both teammates and coaches have noted the 24-year-old’s maturity.

“This year I’m more focused,” said Díaz. “I have got a tough job so I have got to be focused everyday. I just try to win the game every day, try to see the game, and try to concentrate on the game. That has helped me out a lot this year.”

If the results are the true indicator, then yes it has. Díaz entered the day with a MLB-high 30 saves, the most ever by a Mariners closer before the All-Star break. In 2017, he didn’t collect his 30th save until Aug. 25. Of course it is his team that has put him in position to earn so many saves. And with this team, Díaz knows that leads can come late and to never count the Mariners out.

Wednesday night, with the Mariners down two heading into the ninth inning, Díaz knew he would be needed – even with Orioles All-Star closer Zach Britton on the mound.

“I told them in the bullpen,” he said. “I don’t know why because Britton is a great closer – he’s had injuries but he’s got great stuff. I told them when he was running to the mound, ‘Hey, the game is not over, be ready to pitch everybody.’ I told them, (Kyle) Seager tied the game and then in the 11th we won.”

When I pointed out that it was probably not a bad call to make with Seager at the plate facing a lefty, Díaz lit up.

“Seager is doing great against the lefties, and in the clutch too,” he said. “It’s putting us in the games. It’s great, he makes good contact.”

Despite Seager’s struggles with his batting average, he has continued to hit lefties well this year. And since 2012, no lefty hitter in baseball has more home runs against left-handed pitching. Seager’s clutch stats have also been good. It turns out this is something Díaz knew.

“I was reading on Twitter, he’s doing good,” Díaz said. “I read everything. Everything I see, I see it on Twitter. I see he’s doing great when he gets a RBI, he helps the team a lot.”

Díaz is correct. When Seager records an RBI, the Mariners are 23-6 this season. But it’s not just the Mariners that Díaz is reading about on Twitter, but other teams as well.

“I learn a lot,” he said. “I don’t put much on Twitter, but every day I go there and start reading the news and everything so I can get more in the game there.”

On Thursday morning, Díaz had more time to look at Twitter. He has been keeping up a tremendous pace, needing to be be available nearly every day. As serious as he is about his job, and as serious as he is about trying to get to 50 saves to win a bet with his manager (“I take it personally because it is a big number – I put it in my mind and started doing everything good and tried to get quicker to 50”), he also knows when it is time to let down. That time was Thursday.

It was his day off, and was determined to enjoy it.

“I will just stay relaxed and try to have fun. I know I don’t pitch. I go to the bullpen, start joking, try to have fun over there and watch the game and see if we can win. When I have got a day off, I can do whatever I want. I will take my day off happy and try to have fun with everybody, try to make it fun in the clubhouse, make everybody have a good emotion so today is my day,” he said with a laugh.

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