Diaz's K-Rod comparisons flatter Tigers' closer

Diaz's K-Rod comparisons flatter Tigers' closer

SEATTLE -- Over the last couple of nights at Safeco Field, plenty of Detroit Tigers have gotten a good look at Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz, the rookie phenom who has dazzled with 58 strikeouts in his first 31 big league innings and has gone 5-for-5 in save opportunities in his first week as Seattle's closer.

One opposing player in particular has taken notice. Francisco Rodriguez, who's now 34, remembers what it was like to come out of the Minors with overpowering stuff at a very young age and confound hitters to the delight of his home fans.

The year was 2002, and Rodriguez, a 20-year-old Angels September callup from Triple-A, parlayed a dominant showing in the last weeks of the regular season into October immortality. He earned a World Series ring and a flashy nickname, "K-Rod." Six years later, he set the Major League record for saves in a single season with 62.

Diaz's save

When told that Diaz, who also throws right-handed and features a devastating fastball-slider combination, has already been compared to a young Rodriguez, the veteran closer laughed.

"I didn't throw that hard coming up," Rodriguez said, and he's correct. Diaz has hit 102 mph in this series, and a young Rodriguez topped out around 96. Diaz's hard slider is a bit different than the looping slurve that Rodriguez used as a secondary pitch way back when.

"I was really impressed," Rodriguez added. "I saw him facing Miggy [Cabrera], the heart of the order, and his stuff is really good. He has good deception, too. He hides the ball real well, and when the hitters are trying to pick it up, it's too late. It's by them. I was very impressed both nights. Really impressive."

When told that people are comparing the two, Rodriguez said he was flattered. He also had some predictions for Diaz's bright future.

"It's an honor to hear that," Rodriguez said. "This kid has electric stuff. If he continues to locate it the way he's doing it, everything's going to be easy for him.

"Right now people don't know him yet. They're going to make adjustments. But he's going to have fun."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.