Diaz shows progress after losing closer job

Diaz shows progress after losing closer job

SEATTLE -- This wasn't an ease-him-into-it situation for struggling Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz on Friday night, at least not the heels of him losing his closer job after several recent shaky outings.

But the returns from Diaz' first outing since a rough outing Tuesday against the A's were promising in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox in 10 innings Friday. Diaz pitched the eighth and the ninth innings, tossing two scoreless frames, giving up two hits on infield singles while striking out two.

"[Edwin] Diaz threw the ball really well tonight," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Getting him back, moving in the right direction is a definite positive for us."

Diaz, who has a 4.67 ERA, struggled in his last outing, walking four consecutive batters with one out after being lifted for Tony Zych on Tuesday.

The right-hander has worked with Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. on tweaking his mechanics and his outing against the White Sox was a good first step, Diaz said.

"We are working on staying back, try and throw the ball in front," Diaz said. "I think they we're closer to throwing the ball pretty good down and away and I need to throw the ball over there, and today was a pretty good sign."

Diaz's pace was much improved, according to Servais. While Diaz says he doesn't think about mechanics too much while on the mound, subtle reminders helped him regain his focus after throwing a bad pitch.

Getting him to do that in a high-pressure situation was all part of the plan, according to Servais.

"That's really what I wanted to do," Servais said, "just get him a couple innings so he could go out and feel it and work on it and slow the heartbeat down a little and pitch instead of getting all caught up in the emotion and everything that goes with the ninth inning or a save opportunity."

Servais was encouraged by the progression of Diaz's off-speed pitches on Friday night as well.

"The breaking ball came back; that's the slider we're used to seeing out of Eddy," Servais said. "And we're going to need it. There's no doubt, he's going to be a big part of our bullpen and hopefully work his way back into that ninth inning spot. It was a definite positive for him tonight."

Servais and the Mariners are counting on Diaz to revert to his previous form because no one in Seattle's bullpen has demonstrated the ability to take over the closer role. Zych, who relieved Diaz in the 10th inning, hit Willy Garcia to lead off the inning and surrendered an RBI double to Melky Cabrera, scoring pinch-runner Leury Garcia, allowing Chicago to take a 2-1 lead.

Diaz still has some work ahead of him to reassume the closer role, Servais admitted, although early signs point to successful mechanical adjustments for the second-year reliever.

"I need to keep working and get better every day," Diaz said.

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