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Early stretch-run mode: Mets to use closer Díaz in 8th

RONALD BLUM (AP Baseball Writer)
New York Mets' Edwin Diaz throws during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Saturday, May 11, 2019, in New York. The Mets won 4-1. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Switching into stretch-run mode even before Memorial Day, the New York Mets will start using All-Star closer Edwin Diaz more often in the eighth inning.

New York began Wednesday with a 22-25 record, 5+ games back of NL East-leading Philadelphia. Manager Mickey Callaway said he was willing to go against the trend of limiting closers to three outs in most situations.

''We're doing this earlier than we would like, but you might see Diaz for four outs,'' Callaway said. ''If we're not going to be where we want to be at this point, how can we expect to be there and hold off on doing that with Diaz? So we got to win some games. We're going to approach this like it's the playoffs because we feel like we need to.''

Callaway announced the decision shortly before the Mets made a series of roster moves. They placed outfielder Brandon Nimmo on the 10-day injured list because of a stiff neck, a move retroactive to Tuesday, selected the contract of 38-year-old outfielder Rajai Davis from Triple-A Syracuse and designated right-hander Paul Sewald for assignment. In addition, Jeff McNeil was out of a starting lineup because of a tight left hamstring.

Diaz, a 25-year-old right-hander, has a 1.93 ERA in his first season with the Mets. He has pitched 18 2/3 innings over 20 appearances and is perfect in 11 save chances. On April 15, Callaway decided not to bring in Diaz after Philadelphia loaded the bases against Jeurys Familia, and Robert Gsellman relieved and forced home the tying run with a four-pitch walk to Jean Segura. Callaway said then that he did not think using Diaz for more than three outs was necessary, but his mind has changed.

''You might see Diaz for four outs moving forward for the unforeseeable future,'' Callaway said with linguistic flourish. ''We're not going to throw him seven innings. They've got to put a limit on it at some point. But, you know what? Hey, if we're a tie ballgame and he goes out and pitches the ninth and throws 10 pitches, we might send him out for a second inning. So it's not a hard cap.''

After acquiring Diaz from Seattle in early December along with second baseman Robinson Cano, the Mets re-signed former closer Jeurys Familia to a $30 million, three-year contract to be Diaz's setup man. Familia has a 6.50 ERA in 18 appearances

''We also felt like, OK, the eighth inning is going to be handled,'' Callaway said. ''It hasn't been handled. So we have to have to adjust.''

In addition, right-hander Seth Lugo is on the injured list because of right shoulder tendinitis.

''The last couple of nights we've been in a situation where we felt like, man, if we we'd have had Diaz, it might have made this a little bit easier,'' Callaway said. ''Where we are at and where we want to get to is probably the biggest reason. We're not where we want to be. We haven't played the way we're capable of playing. So we need to adjust what we were thinking and what our plans were and be a better team.''

Callaway, Cleveland's pitching coach from 2013-17, will reassess Diaz's workload as the season progresses.

''There's closers that have done this the whole season if they're smart about it and communicate the right way and are always honest about how they feel and we're not pushing them too much,'' Callaway said. ''You can't do it twice a week, every day, for the rest of the season, but you can pick your spots and probably make it happen.''

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