Servais not sweating Diaz's recent struggles

Servais not sweating Diaz's recent struggles

SEATTLE -- After rookie closer Edwin Diaz walked the bases loaded and gave up two runs but held on to secure a 7-6 win Friday night, Mariners manager Scott Servais wanted the hard-throwing right-hander to take pride in finishing the job.

"We won the game," Servais said. "You have to put a smile on your face. You can't walk out of there like you let everybody down. You didn't. You got the final out."

Diaz hasn't had a feel for his fastball in his last two outings -- allowing three runs on four hits combined -- but neither the skipper nor the pitcher is worried. Diaz still has nine saves in as many opportunities. Before Wednesday's game in Anaheim, Diaz had given up only one run in eight appearances since taking the job as the closer on Aug. 2.

Diaz believes all his fastball needed was a quick fix. In Friday's outing, he was dropping his arm, he said. He will work with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre over the next couple days to find his arm slot, and the Mariners will do their best to give him at least Saturday night off.

"You've got to be smart with how much we use him," Servais said. "But it's really hard. We play so many close games, and gosh it seems like every game is life or death. You've got to have it. And you always feel good about him out there."

And Diaz always wants to be out there.

"I will start working on [fastball command] today," he said. "If I pitch tonight maybe I can fix it tonight on the mound, too."

While he wasn't able to go to his fastball consistently, Diaz relied on his slider. He has been developing that pitch with a new grip throughout the season. On Friday he threw his slider as a first pitch, a strikeout pitch and even when he was behind in a 3-1 count.

"I've got two pitches now I can throw in whatever count," Diaz said. "I can throw my fastball, I can throw my slider."

And he gained confidence in his ability to get out of a jam, something he has rarely had to do this year.

"That made the skipper trust more in me," he said, "and my team trust more."

Worth noting

• The Mariners held an opening ceremony for their homage to the Olympic Games before taking batting practice Saturday. In front of an empty stadium, the players gathered on the field in their "M Games" shirts to watch the presentation on the big screen. The ceremony included a slide show of different players' faces photoshopped onto actual Olympic athletes and the lighting of the Olympic torch on the mound.

"We came up with the idea a few weeks ago as a [way to] keep it loose," Servais said. "We know that August can get long, and the Games, it gives the guys something to look forward to when they come to the park. And it's good to have a little distraction once in a while too."

The players have been split up into teams denoted by the color of their shirts. They will compete in non-strenuous competitions throughout the homestand.

• Left-handed pitcher James Paxton is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma Saturday. He will throw three or four innings. After another bullpen session, he could return to the starting rotation. Paxton is on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 8, with a left elbow contusion.

• The Mariners have not named starters for Monday or Tuesday yet. Right-hander Cody Martin, who the Mariners have used as a long reliever, could start Monday, Servais said. But that depends on how they use their bullpen in the next couple days. Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled for Wednesday, with an extra day of rest.

"I know he appreciates the extra day and usually responds really well to it," Servais said. "So, we got a chance to give that to him. Especially this time of year, I think it's a good idea."

Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.