Diaz attends service for his friend Fernandez

Cardinals shortstop grew up with late Marlins pitcher in Cuba

Diaz attends service for his friend Fernandez

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz traveled to Miami on Monday to attend a private service honoring Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident on Sunday. Diaz returned and was on St. Louis' bench during a 15-2 loss to the Reds in the series opener.

Diaz and Fernandez grew up doors apart on Eighth Street in Cuba's Santa Clara neighborhood, where Diaz's father and uncle first encouraged Fernandez to play baseball. The two families remained close and eventually both settled in South Florida.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that Diaz requested permission to join his family for the day to attend the intimate gathering of Fernandez's close friends and family. The club told Diaz to take whatever time he needed.

"They [the Fernandez family] wanted Aledmys and his family there," Matheny said. "That was the place where he needed to be today. He doesn't need to be thinking about us right now. He needed to get back there and be with his family and be with his friend's family, and make sure that he's all in. And then when he gets back here, he'll be all in."

Diaz has not played since losing his longtime friend, though he did appear in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning of Sunday's loss. The game ended with Diaz still standing there.

How often Diaz plays once he returns will hinge on several factors. The Cardinals will obviously keep a watchful eye on how he's handling things emotionally, but will also have their pulse on his physical and mental well-being. Diaz, who returned earlier this month after missing 36 games with a fractured right thumb, has been plagued by right arm soreness and timing issues since. That has led the Cardinals to give him frequent days off.

"We're at that point that if something isn't quite right, we don't have the luxury of necessarily just kind of grinding through it," Matheny said. "It's been the strength in his arm that has really kept him from who he can be defensively and I think it's also some confidence issues at the plate. You come back from major injuries, and there is no quick fix to get your timing or your confidence. That's something he's been battling through."

Diaz, who ranked 10th in the National League with a .312 batting average at the time of the injury, has slashed .172/.294/.414 over 29 at-bats this month.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.