In Jumbo Diaz, the Cincinnati Reds may have found the kind of bullpen piece in their own backyard who could make a real difference down the stretch for the team’s quest for another NL Central title.
The 30-year-old minor league journeyman has pitched his way to the forefront after two outstanding years as a closer for the Reds’ triple-A affiliate Louisville Bats. His first crack at the majors came this year, and he got off to a bumpy start as he gave up three runs and two homers in his first inning of big league work.
Since then, Diaz has surrendered just one run in more than seven innings of work, and his high-90s fastball is a dominant one. In 8.1 innings overall, Diaz has eight strikeouts, a 4.32 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. With a taste of the majors under his big belt, Diaz is poised to be the third cog in the backend of a bullpen that features Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton.
The importance of Diaz to the Reds could become even more magnified to start the second half of the season if the hamstring tweak suffered by Chapman during the All-Star game requires the closer to miss any time.
Diaz dropped 70 pounds from the end of last season to Spring Training this year, and now looks like he’s at a manageable weight that will help him handle his big league plate. Despite the weight loss, he’s still big (listed at 315 pounds), and his huge presence stands to be a huge factor in the Reds’ success for the rest of the 2014 season.