Former Red Sox prospect Jhonathan Diaz will be making his second career start for the Angels on Saturday night, and he has the opportunity to help out his old team in the process of doing so.
Diaz will get the ball for the Halos as they go up against the Mariners in the second game of a pivotal three-game set at T-Mobile Park with plenty of Wild Card implications at stake.
Los Angeles opened their series against Seattle with a tight 2-1 victory on Friday to drop the Mariners to 89-71 and push them one game back of the Red Sox for the second and final American League Wild Card spot coming into play on Saturday.
Jose Suarez picked up the win for the Angels in the opener of the three-game set, and a fellow left-hander in Diaz will look to do the same in the middle contest.
The 25-year-old originally signed with the Red Sox for $600,000 as an international free-agent out of Venezuela back in July 2013 — the same signing class that Boston landed Rafael Devers.
Signed by the likes of Eddie Romero and Angel Escobar at just 16, Diaz made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following summer. He did not pitch in 2015 on account of a knee injury, but made it as far as High-A by the time the 2019 minor-league season came to a close.
At that time, Diaz had put together a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 3.86 ERA and 3.98 xFIP with 118 strikeouts and 54 walks over 27 starts spanning 128 1/3 innings of work for Salem.
The Venezuelan southpaw also made eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League and was likely on track to begin the following season with Double-A Portland.
However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled in June, leaving Diaz — who did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site — on his own.
With his minor-league contract set to expire, Diaz became a free-agent for the first time last fall, but bounced back on his feet quickly by inking a minors pact with the Angels in late November.
In his first season with a new organization, Diaz opened the 2021 season at Double-A Rocket City, pitched for his native Venezuela in Olympic qualifiers, and returned to Double-A before earning a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake on August 26.
Over the course of three starts for the Bees, the 6-foot, 170 pound hurler put up a 4.11 ERA, a 4.47 FIP, and a 14:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio before having his contract selected and earning his first big-league call-up on September 17.
Making his major-league debut that same day as a starter, Diaz allowed two runs on two hits, four walks, one hit batsman, and two strikeouts over 1 2/3 innings pitched in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Athletics in Anaheim.
Eight days later, Diaz was called upon to work out of the bullpen this time around against the Mariners. From the third inning on, the lefty tossed seven frames of one-run ball while scattering three hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts en route to picking up his first-ever major-league win in a 14-1 rout of Seattle.
Per Baseball Savant, Diaz operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a changeup, slider, sinker, curveball, and four-seam fastball. Opposing batters thus far are hitting just .200 off his changeup, .182 off his slider, and .125 off his sinker.
Diaz will be making his first start away from Angel Stadium on Saturday. If he replicates what he did against the Mariners in his last time out, he could be doing the team he began his professional career with a great service.
(Picture of Jhonathan Diaz: John McCoy/Getty Images)