Diaz hoping for return to big leagues

After hitting 12 home runs in 89 games with the Mets in 2005, Victor Diaz suffered a season-long slump with Triple-A Norfolk in 2006. Diaz, who was traded to the Rangers last August, hopes to make a return to the major leagues.

When Victor Diaz was traded to the Rangers last August, many people didn't know what to expect. Diaz, who has two minor league batting titles to his credit, was in the midst of a season-long slump.

Nothing in Diaz's past led people to believe he would struggle in 2006. He entered 2006 with career averages of .308 in the minors and .263 in the majors.

For the second season in a row, he won a job on the Mets opening day roster in spring training. His stay in New York however was a short one, as he hit only .182 before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk, where he had hit .300 in 2005.

The disappointment of being back in the minors led Diaz to struggle in Triple-A. Hitting just .224 with eight homeruns on August 30, he was traded to Texas for catcher Mike Nickeas.

"It was a shock to be traded because they [the Mets] pretty much gave up on me," Diaz said. "It was the first year in my career that I struggled with hitting. It was more mental than physical. I struggled because I wanted to be up there, but I was struck in Triple-A. Hopefully this works out here in Texas. Now I'm focused and just come to the ball park and play hard every day."

Diaz bounced back in spring training this year with the Rangers and hit .308 with two homeruns and six runs-batted-in, but he still started the year in Triple-A. He has not struggled so far, as he began the season with a homerun on opening day at Memphis, and is currently hitting .338 with one homerun and 18 runs-batted-in.

"I had a really good spring and I have started out good this year. Hopefully it will keep going like that and I will end up in the big leagues."

If Diaz is called up by the Rangers this season it will not be the first time Diaz has played for a team from Texas.

Diaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but moved to Chicago when he was one year old. After graduating high school, Diaz moved to Sherman, Texas to attend Grayson County Community College.

"The competition was great at Grayson, especially since I was from the Midwest. [Coach] Tim Tadlock recruited me to play there. He had seen me out in Long Beach at the Area Code Games and I was either going to go there, or to [the University of] Texas if I went Division One."

While at Grayson, Diaz was named a first team junior college All-American as a second baseman. Diaz continued to play in the infield after being drafted in the 37th round of the 2000 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. It wasn't until 2004 after he had been traded to the Mets that he was switched the outfield.

With two outfielders over the age of 38 starting for the Rangers, injuries could be an issue during the season. Even if injuries don't occur, if Diaz continues to hit like he is currently, the Rangers may not be able to afford to leave him in Oklahoma.

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