SARASOTA, Fla. – Lewin Díaz noticed that his friends stopped contacting him. The excitement shared over finding a new team was replaced by awkward silence.
The Pirates claimed Díaz off waivers in November. The Orioles claimed him less than two weeks later. And the insanity was building momentum.
A trade to the Braves, another claim by the Orioles, and a DFA six days later.
This time, it worked. Teams passed on Díaz and the Orioles outrighted him to Triple-A Norfolk.
It’s safe to congratulate him.
“Honestly, it was very complicated, a lot of movement,” Díaz said this morning via interpreter Brandon Quinones. “It’s something that I’ve never been through in my career, so there was a lot going on, to say the least. But toward the end of it, I was like, ‘OK, now it’s going to slow down for sure.’”
So did the phone calls.
“The first couple times people would reach out to me and tell me, ‘Hey, we’re super excited for you for this new opportunity, being part of a new team,” Díaz said, smiling. “A few more times after that, they kind of stopped reaching out. They’re like, ‘You know? We feel bad for him. Let’s not reach out do anything like that.
“At that point, it was kind of just me and my wife talking about it and dealing with it.”
The Orioles wanted to get Díaz, 26, through waivers and remove him from the 40-man roster but keep him in the organization to compete for a backup job at first base, where he’s regarded as a plus defender. He also provides a left-handed bat, which is marked as a priority.
Other clubs had the same interest.
It’s nice to be wanted but there are limits.
“At a certain point, it did become frustrating,” he said. “At the beginning I was kind of like, it’s something I can’t control, so why would I get frustrated over it? But toward the end when it kept happening over and over I was like, ‘OK, it’s getting to the point where I’m starting to get frustrated over it.’”
A 16-game stint with Estrellas in the Dominican Winter League provided a nice distraction, though he went 9-for-54 in 63 plate appearances. An outlet to take his mind off the way he was being passed around like a bottle at a frat party.
“I would say playing in the DR was sort of my refuge,” he said. “Getting those phone calls toward the very end, once they became a little frustrating, playing in the DR definitely helped me get through that. I had a coach over there who gave me advice and tips and kind of helped me get through that situation.”
Once the Orioles designated Díaz for assignment on Jan. 11 to make room for left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez on the 40-man, he wanted the madness to end and found himself rooting for the outright rather than again getting his hopes up.
You can’t plant roots when you don’t stay on one place.
“After the DFA’d me for the last time,” he said, “I was to the point where I was like, ‘You know what, hopefully I just get to stay here and be done with the process finally and start to get to work pretty soon.’
“At the end of the day, God’s plan is perfect and I think that everything happens for a reason and I’m here for a reason now. I think good things are going to come out of it.”
A message that his wife Silenia kept voicing to him.
“I’ve got to give credit to my wife, she’s the one who kept me rooted throughout this entire process,” he said. “She would calm me and tell me, ‘Things happen for a reason. You’ve just got to stay strong and get through it. You know your time will come, so just stay patient through it.’
“I was like, ‘I’m tired with this process. I can’t wait to get it over,’ and she was like, ‘You’ve got to keep going. You’re going to get through it very soon.’”
Díaz is vying for the same role as Ryan O’Hearn, Franchy Cordero, Josh Lester and Curtis Terry among non-roster invites, though he’s strictly a first baseman. Terry is the only right-handed hitter in the group.
“So far since I’ve been here, I really like the camaraderie between me and the new guys, the teammates,” Díaz said. “I think the coaches have been really helpful so far with communication and everything like that. I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far and I think if I just continue to do good things and go about my work in a good way, good things are going to come out of it.”