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Jumbo Diaz impressive in Rays debut

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New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Newly acquired Jumbo Diaz made his debut in the 7th inning of the Rays/Yankees game on Tuesday, and then returned to the mound on Wednesday when the team was in a jam. In both cases, he was exactly what the Rays needed.

Diaz was claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds on March 10th and didn’t have an encouraging spring, allowing 15 hits and 3 earned runs in 8 innings of work.

Game 2: Rays Debut

However, he came on with the Rays trailing the Yankees 3-0, and was set to face Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.

First up, Brett Gardner, who Diaz strikes out on 6 pitches.

Diaz followed that by inducing a pop up to Brad Miller from Sanchez and getting Greg Bird to pop out to Longoria at third. Seeing him get weak contact from the Yankees’ heralded young hitters was a small silver lining for an otherwise disappointing game.

The only disappointment here is that the trackman data does not seem to be available for this outing. There have been issues across baseball with the switch from PitchFX to Trackman in communicating all pitcher profiles, and this was one such case.

Game 3: Electric Boogaloo

In yesterdays victory against the Yankees, Cash called upon Diaz in the sixth inning to put out a fire, and to prevent the game from getting out of control. After Matt Holiday and Jacoby Ellsbury reached base with two outs. Diaz came on to face Starlin Castro.

Knowing that Castro is an aggressive hitter, Diaz threw him three straight changeups at 87 MPH, 85 MPH, and 89 MPH in the same location.

Starlin Castro AB vs RHP Jumbo Diaz

The first pitch, Castro took and was called a strike. Second pitch was fouled off, and the third pitch was a swinging strike.

This is a remarkable change in Diaz’s approach, but one we anticipated.

In the 2016 season, Diaz abandoned his change up completely toward the end of the season, going from 15% usage at the start of the season to 1% towards the end and exclusively used a slider as his off speed pitch. When he did throw the changeup, it had a decent whiff rate of 33% in the first month of the 2016 season.

Re-introducing the changeup, which is considered “more of a lineage than a philosophy” on the Rays staff, according to Jim Hickey, would add a fourth pitch that could make Diaz a reliable bullpen threat. With the outrageous success of the pitch on the Rays’ staff, it's not hard to see why Diaz has gone back to the pitch.

If Jumbo Diaz can keep up the effective work, he will help a bullpen that needs solidifying, and may force the Rays’ front office to make some tough decisions once Shawn Tolleson and Brad Boxberger are back from their DL stints.