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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mets closer Díaz will miss season after injury during celebration

Edwin Díaz had just closed out Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday when he collapsed to the ground. He was unable to walk off the field.

By James Wagner

A rousing 5-2 victory by Puerto Rico over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday earned the team a spot in the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. But the elation quickly turned into despair when star closer Edwin Díaz crumbled to the ground during a postgame celebration on the mound.

Díaz’s teammates formed a circle around him, hanging their heads or crying. Instead of heading to the clubhouse at loanDepot Park to pack up their bags, Dominican players lingered in the dugout, stunned at the scene on the field. And when Díaz, 28, finally stood up, he was first carried and then wheeled off the field, unable to put any weight on his right leg.

Díaz, who signed a record-setting five-year, $102 million deal this offseason to remain with the New York Mets, suffered a complete tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee and was to undergo surgery Thursday, the team said. Mets general manager Billy Eppler told reporters that a general timeline for a return is roughly eight months.

“Edwin Diaz is a great human being and a fierce competitor,” Mets owner Steven Cohen wrote on Twitter. “All of us at the Mets are shaken but determined to sustain our quest for a great season. We wish Edwin a speedy recovery.”

Diaz’s injury came after a highly anticipated do-or-die matchup between two baseball powerhouses, which had lived up to expectations. The teams played in front of a thunderous sellout crowd of 36,025 people and Puerto Rico, the runners-up in the previous two installments of the tournament in 2013 and ’17, knocked out the Dominican Republic, a team of superstars that was one of the favorites.

But Díaz’s collapse erased those emotions and renewed the injury concerns that surround the tournament, which is held every four years and lasts two weeks during Major League Baseball’s spring training. It also dealt a huge blow to the Mets, a team that is entering the year with World Series aspirations.

“As excited as we were about the game and all that, it’s one of our brothers” said Puerto Rico center fielder Enrique Hernández, a Boston Red Sox player.

Several top players, many of them pitchers, declined to participate in the WBC or were denied permission to play by their MLB teams. Some cited injury concerns — current or potential — as their reason. Teams often worry that players have to ramp up earlier than usual before the 162-game regular season to compete in games that matter much more than spring training exhibition contests. (Players are required to be covered by insurance to compete in the WBC.)

Díaz didn’t appear to hurt himself while pitching Wednesday. He fired his trademark 100-mph fastballs and wicked sliders to strike out the side in the ninth inning and did not appear to be in pain before the celebration began.

After the final out, Díaz hugged his brother, Alexis, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. They were joined by other teammates and with their arms around each other, they bounced up and down in a fairly tame celebration. But then Díaz collapsed to the ground, and teammates signaled immediately for the training staff to come out.

Off to the side, Puerto Rico captain Francisco Lindor, a fellow Met, looked at the ground while hunched over. Robinson Canó, the Dominican infielder and former Met, held his hands on his head. Tears streamed down Díaz’s brother’s face.

Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina said he didn’t see what happened to Díaz because he was hugging his coaches in the dugout after the final out. When he looked up, he was surprised to see Díaz on the ground.

“When you see a guy that works so hard like Edwin, when you see him on the ground like that it just is sad,” he said.

Molina added later about postgame celebrations, “If anything is going to happen, it will happen. Celebrations exist ever since I was born. It’s God’s will. I just hope that Edwin is going to be OK, that his family is OK and we are praying for him.”

Behind eight pitchers, Puerto Rico neutralized a star-studded Dominican Republic offense and played cleaner defense. At the plate, Puerto Rico designated hitter Christian Vázquez homered, while Hernández and Lindor each added two hits. With the win, Puerto Rico advanced to the quarterfinals as the runner-up of Pool D and will face Mexico, which won Pool C, on Saturday in Miami.

In the tunnel outside the Puerto Rico clubhouse after the game, Díaz’s brother and parents, in tears, were escorted away.

“Aside from being the best closer in the game right now, and being a huge part of this team, Sugar is one of the glue guys in that clubhouse,” Hernández said, referring to Díaz by his nickname. He noted Díaz, who saved 32 games for the Mets each of the past two seasons, helped organize dinners and gatherings for the Puerto Rican team.

“He has a really big bank account, but his heart is way bigger,” Hernández said, adding later about the injury, “The fact that it was him, it’s a big blow in more ways than one.”

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