Diaz on mend from surgery, faces batters

Diaz on mend from surgery, faces batters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reliever Jairo Diaz, whose right elbow injury last March was one of many reasons the Rockies' bullpen struggled last season, took a small but significant step Friday by facing hitters at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Diaz, 25, who possesses a fastball that averaged 97.3 mph while going 0-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 26 combined games with the Angels (2014) and Rockies (2015), said he should be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment by May. When ready, Diaz could add power to a bullpen that looks to improve from last season, when its 5.13 ERA was the highest in the Major Leagues.

Diaz had plenty of company on the disabled list last season. At various times, significant pitchers Adam Ottavino, Jason Motte, Chad Qualls, Jake McGee and Scott Oberg were disabled. Diaz watched it all during a lonely rehab after recovering from Tommy John surgery.

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Diaz faced hitters a few times during the winter in the Dominican Republic. He has seen improvement, and reported no problems after Friday's session.

"The velocity is coming back pretty good right now and the location is pretty good," Diaz said. "I don't know how hard I'm throwing right now, but I feel pretty good.

"It was really tough last year, watching my partners try to get through all the games last year. I'm excited about this year. With a manager that was a pitcher [Bud Black], who knows how we feel -- he was a really good pitcher."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.