It took Jose Diaz 12 1/2 seasons to finally make it into the big leagues. He won’t take it for granted now after establishing himself in the Reds’ bullpen the last two seasons.
“I don’t want to take that way, that I have made the team,” Diaz said. “In my mind, I’m still fighting for one spot in the bullpen for this year. There is a lot of opportunity for a lot of young guys. Everybody here is trying to make the team. I’m not going to feel comfortable. I have to come in here working hard like it’s the last day.”
The 370 lb man became Jumbo Diaz while gaining weight and minor league experience with the Dodgers, Rangers, Orioles and Pirates before the Reds signed him to a minor league contract in November 2012.
Jumbo reported to spring training at 275lbs spread over his 6‘4“ frame with the same 95-98 velocity but with better command of the strike zone.
“Mini” Jumbo was re-assigned to Louisville on the eve of opening day, the reduced his ERA to 1.35 in 30 games with the Bats and led the International League with 18 saves. Diaz was .
The Reds promoted Diaz on June 20 that year, making his debut that night against Toronto. He pitched in 36 games and logged 34 2/3 innings with an 0-1 record and a 3.38 ERA.
The native of La Romana, Dominican Republic made his first opening day roster at the age of 31 last season, getting his first Major League win on opening day against the Pirates.
Diaz struggled with his command and was sent to Louisville on June 6 to work with Ted Power. He spent pitched in 13 games and fashioned a 1.13 ERA with eight saves to earn a trip back to Cincinnati on July 17. Diaz earned his only Major League save on September 15 at San Francisco.
This year the Reds are expecting Diaz along with J.J. Hoover, to help stabilize what promises to be an young, inexperienced bullpen.
The Reds want Diaz to use his slider and split fingered fastball more often.
“Hard throwers, trying to be consistent in the zone with big velocity is a challenge sometimes,” Bryan Price said. “The velocity is there. It has been there for sometime. The ability to pitch with the slider and the split are difference makers in his ability to elevate the quality of his performances.”
The Reds bullpen coach Mack Jenkins has been analyzing the pitchers with video charting where their pitches are being hit. For example, Does a pitcher get hit harder when he throws inside to left-handed batters or outside? This has led the Reds to have Diaz work on his other pitches.
“Jumbo has three really good pitches but he has to access those pitches,” Price said. “Everyone knows he’s going to attack at 95-100 miles per hour but to then have to contend with that split as a right-hander hitter, or the slider is really tough.”
Jumbo is working hard to get better.
“I’m using my slider and change up more. Yesterday I struck out the left-hander with a slider,” said Diaz, who was so happy he executed the pitch that he gave a fist pump as he walked off the mound. “I know I can throw the fastball but I want to be comfortable with my slider so I can throw it anytime.”
C Devin Mesoraco, who had surgery to repair a hip impingement, is experiencing tightness in his quad muscle. He is resuming baseball activities after few days rest. “I’ve been doing catching drills the last day or two,” Mesoraco said. “I haven’t run the bases yet. I don’t expect to wait much longer to get into a game. I’m tired of sitting on the bench.” OF Billy Hamilton, who has had discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder, took some “dry” swings without pain and will hit off a tee today... RHP Michael Lorenzen was scratched from his start with tenderness in his right elbow. An ultrasound revealed he had inflammation. Lorenzen will get a couple days of rest and is not expected to miss another start.