The sticking point, however, has been another health issue that’s delayed his first appearance in an exhibition game.
Diaz noticed some discomfort in his left shoulder while taking batting practice a few days before the opener. Nothing to concern Diaz or the organization, but also nothing that a player should try to push through in February.
“Came out of nowhere,” he said yesterday via translator Ramón Alarcón. “I was just swinging in my BP and just felt something.”
Manager Brandon Hyde expects Diaz to play this weekend. The Cuban-born outfielder, regarded as the big prize in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers, was back in the cage yesterday.
“I’m feeling very well now,” he said. “So much better.”
Good enough to play in a couple of days?
“I hope so, but it’s really not up to me,” he said. “It’s really up to the trainers and coaches.”
Something else that Diaz can’t control.
Same with the injuries that keep cropping up.
Diaz went on the injured list twice last summer at Bowie with hamstring and quadriceps injuries that limited him to 76 games. The Orioles wanted to push him up a level, but a body that’s given him the kind of raw power that scouts grade highly wouldn’t allow it.
The Feb. 16 report date for position players was supposed to represent a fresh start. But here we are again.
“I do feel a little bit disappointed,” he said. “I was mentally ready to come here, compete, try to win a spot and really couldn’t do that right off the bat. So I just need to wait and, hopefully, I can do that soon.”
The Orioles could assign Diaz to Norfolk. He won’t be included on their 26-man roster for opening day, but could debut later in the summer at age 23.
“That’s what I really want,” he said. “I hope so. It’s not really up to me. It’s really up to the front office.”
It’s also up to Diaz. He has to stay on the field and tap deeper into that potential.
Turn that raw power into more home runs. Improve on a .440 career slugging percentage. Make his speed translate into more successful stolen base attempts. He’s been caught 38 times in 66 tries.
Make the hard work over the winter pay off.
Diaz sought the help of Jesus Gallo, co-owner of Elite Athletes Performance in Miami. He surrendered to a sports-specific functional training facility. Not the usual routine.
“I did a lot of different stuff,” Diaz said. “I tried to incorporate velocity in some of my new exercises. Also, strengthening my core, my inner thighs and all that.
“He’s someone my friends use a lot. We worked on my shoulder, on my body. Unfortunately, the injury came about because of a bad swing or something, but I did work a lot on my body in the offseason.”
Now it has to stop tormenting him.