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Edwin Diaz returns to Mets after sticky stuff suspension, says he won’t change how he gets a grip

PITTSBURGH — Baseball poses a lot of questions that don’t have clear answers. The one the Mets have been grappling with over the last year and a half is, how sticky is too sticky?

The Mets have to find an answer or risk losing another pitcher.

“I think that’s a conversation that everybody is having nowadays,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said Saturday at PNC Park.

Edwin Diaz was reinstated from his 10-game sticky stuff suspension this weekend, giving a struggling bullpen a big boost. The right-handed closer is ready to pick up right where he left off when he was ejected from a game at Wrigley Field on June 23, which means using the same mixture of rock rosin, sweat and dirt to grip the ball.

Insisting innocence, Diaz doesn’t intend to change anything about how he pitches.

“I’ll do the same thing — I didn’t have anything that day,” Diaz said Saturday before the Mets played the second game of a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I will do the same thing: rock rosin, sweat and dirt. That’s how I get a grip on the ball.”

Diaz was accused of using a foreign substance by umpire Vic Carapazza, but he unapologetically denies the use of anything illegal. The only guilt he feels is the guilt from leaving his team a man down for 10 games. The Mets went 5-5 over those 10 games with some major bullpen blowups. A weak bullpen was further exposed, especially in the 10th game he missed.

The Mets gave up so many home runs Friday night in a 14-2 loss to the Pirates that PNC Park ran out of fireworks. Starter Luis Severino was charged with seven of those earned runs, but three were inherited runners that left-hander Jake Diekman allowed to cross. Right-hander Ty Adcock allowed six earned runs and was demoted to Triple-A on Saturday as a result.

The Mets called up righty Eric Orze to replace him in the bullpen.

“The hardest part has been managing with the bodies we have and just kind of going out and doing the best we can,” Reed Garrett told the Daily News. “With a guy down, they kind of ask you to get some more use out of guys.”

As a result, the Mets leaned heavily on Garrett, right-handers Adam Ottavino and Dedniel Nuñez, and left-hander Jake Diekman over the last 10 games. The results weren’t always good.

Diekman made five appearances and gave up five earned runs over only three innings. Garrett made four appearances and gave up two earned runs over 2 2/3 innings, plus he allowed six of seven inherited runners to score.

Ottavino fared better, making five appearances, allowing three runs (two earned) and stranding the only two inherited runners he faced.

“Individually, everybody is just trying to manage their own workload,” Ottavino said. “That’s what’s going to inform their throwing decisions. Like, if you’ve been throwing too much, then you’re going to dial it back. Haven’t been throwing enough, you’re going to throw a little more.”

That’s typically how relievers handle their workload to begin with, but being down a man left pitchers even more uncertain and made life tougher for Mendoza.

Garrett had to warm up twice during a game in Washington. Nuñez threw on back-to-back days after throwing multiple innings. The Mets went through a rotating crew of Triple-A pitchers that struggled to get outs, Triple-A starter Jose Butto was called up to work out of the bullpen and starter Tylor Megill was sent down in favor of a fresh arm.

“There were days where guys got big outs,” Mendoza said. “There were days where we didn’t get the job done.”

The Mets’ bullpen has walked 143 hitters this season, the fifth-most in the league. They’re 24-11 when leading after six innings, 7-5 when tied after seven innings and 5-4 when tied after eight. With the Mets right in the thick of the NL Wild Card mix, the bullpen is crucial to their success this summer.

Which means the Mets need to keep their arms in the ‘pen, instead of on the sidelines. Mendoza said they continue to educate players on how to safely use rosin to prevent yet another suspension.

“If you’re on the fence about it, go less sticky,” Ottavino said. “Yeah, you want to have a grip on the ball, but the rosin and the sweat will get you there. It’s an individual choice out there, but I think we all kind of know what’s excessive.

“And I think the only tricky part is sometimes, you know, the umpires have different interpretations of things.”


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