Diaz Big Part of Louisville Bullpen

30 year-old Jumbo Diaz is a classic example of a minor league journeyman. He's now in his twelve season and working in his fifth organization. Previously the most memorable thing about his was his physique which was often well north of 300#. He lost a lot of weigh coming into this season and throwing a high-90's fastball that is worthy of attention.

Felix Perez led off the sixth inning with a single Monday and scored later on a sac fly to break a tie and provide the final score in Louisville's 3-2 win over visiting Columbus Monday. The win got the Bats closer to the .500 mark at 28-30 which is currently good enough for second place in the International League West Division, 6 ½ games out of first.

The Bats took an early lead in the first inning on RBI singles by Chris Nelson and Tucker Barnhart. That held up until the Clippers tied the score in the fifth before Nelson plated the game-winner with the sac fly. Perez and Ruben Gotay both had two of their team's seven hits and Perez inched above the .300 level again. A host of Louisville pitchers took the mound in the game following starter Josh Smith who got no decision from allowing two runs/four hits/two walks over five innings while striking out seven. Tim Crabbe relieved him and retired four of the five batters he faced allowing only a walk and had good timing to get the win. Ryan Dennick, Chad Rogers and Lee Hyde all kept Columbus scoreless over partial innings before Jumbo Diaz threw a scoreless ninth for the save.

The outing brought Diaz's ERA down to 1.78 which surprisingly is a little higher than the 1.66 he finished with for the Bats last season. He now has thirteen saves while blowing only one and losing two. That already matches his save total of last year when he moved into the closing roll around the first of July. Since coming to Cincinnati as a minor league free agent he's put together a K/BB ratio of 82/30 over 77 innings and a WHIP of 1.091.

First impression is that he's a hot prospect and looking ready for a debut at the MLB level. Unfortunately the full story on the right-hander suggests that he's more of a suspect than a prospect because Cincinnati is the fifth organization in which the 30 year-old has worked since debuting in the Dodgers system way back in 2002. He still has yet to make an MLB debut and actually he's never had the level of success at any higher minor league level approaching what he's done since going to work for Cincinnati.

He might even be going through a minor identity crisis after formerly being known as Jose Diaz. The new moniker was no doubt influenced by this 6'4" physique that carried around 350# last year. On the other hand, a new identity might be a bit apropos since he's enjoying a level of success like a different pitcher. He's even significantly less rotund after incredibly shedding 69# before spring training this year to bring his weight down to 278.

If there was ever any doubt that he has serious ambitions of finally debuting after his 30th birthday, losing that much weight should make it clear. A bigger factor that gets him picked up on the radar more than his size is his 98 mph fastball that he compliments with a good splitter and serviceable slider. One would think that alone would get him a spot in a MLB pen and his recent stats would indicate that there are a lot of International hitters that would agree.

For now he'll still bide his time at Louisville, something he's shown he's able to do after twelve minor league seasons. One thing for sure, if/when that day finally happens he's certainly paid enough dues. His best shot was opening day this year when injuries had riddled the Reds bullpen, but they opted to start the season with some younger prospects and Diaz has never been added to the 40-man roster. There is one spot open now, but that will soon be needed for Mat Latos when he comes off the 60-day DL.

That's not to say room can't be made for Diaz. Roger Bernadina has already cleared waivers once this season and Trevor Bell has not pitched since going on the DL in early April after getting roughed up in couple of outings in the first week of the season. However, now the difficulty would be finding a spot on the active roster. After some challenging stretches earlier in the season it's no surprise that bullpen's performance has improved with the return of pitchers from the DL. Still, Diaz's stuff should make him a strong candidate to finally get that elusive debut after roster expansion if not sooner. No doubt his size will gain a lot of attention whenever he walks upon the mound for the first time. It will indeed be interesting to see how effective that heater that approaches triple digits keeps it.


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