Miami Marlins

Can a day off help Miami Marlins rookie Isan Diaz break out of career-opening slump?

Miami Marlins’ Isan Diaz excited for MLB opportunity

The Miami Marlins called up second baseman Isan Diaz to make his MLB debut before their series against the New York Mets.
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The Miami Marlins called up second baseman Isan Diaz to make his MLB debut before their series against the New York Mets.

The first thing Miguel Rojas remembers thinking about Isan Diaz was how smooth the infielder was on defense. Diaz had just shifted from shortstop to second base full-time when the Miami Marlins traded for him ahead of the 2018 season and he reminded Rojas of a young Robinson Cano with his fluidity in all aspects of his game.

“What brought him to the minor leagues and all the success he’s having in the minor leagues,” the infielder said, “is because he’s being the player that he can be.”

The same piece of advice is still what the Marlins’ veterans are reiterating to Diaz early in his MLB career. After homering in his Major League debut Monday, Diaz went hitless for three consecutive games and got a day off Thursday against the Atlanta Braves after a 1-for-15 start to his rookie season.

It’s too small a sample size for Miami to panic at all about the No. 86 overall prospect in the rankings. He’s not giving the organization reason to anyway. Diaz has a history of starting slow at new levels and manager Don Mattingly hasn’t seen any significant change in Diaz’s swing despite the 23-year-old’s slow start. Diaz feels good about his approach so far, too.

“It’s the big leagues. It’s a learning process,” said Diaz, who returned the lineup as a second baseman batting second in the order Friday at Marlins Park. “You see things up here that you’re not normally used to seeing down there, so I think it’s just a matter of time of just trying to continue to see it and just continue to use the information that we have up here to have a better understanding of how to take on these pitchers.”

More than even the wider access to video or analytics in the Majors, Diaz has leaned on the advice of veterans since joining Miami on Monday before a doubleheader against the New York Mets. The former shortstop specifically mentioned Rojas and utilityman Neil Walker as two of the older players in the clubhouse who have given him advice.

Their most consistent message has been to encourage Diaz not to change, but they have also helped him prepare for the National League East pitchers he has exclusively been pitted against so far in his Marlins career. In his debut in New York, Diaz went up against Jacob deGrom. He wrapped up the four-game series against the Mets by facing starting pitchers Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz, both of whom are former top prospects.

On Friday at 7:10 p.m. against the Braves in Miami, Diaz will square off against former All-Star starting pitcher Julio Teheran. They’ve almost uniformly been difficult tests for the rookie, although his teammaets have seen them enough to help him with his approach to at-bats against divisional opponents.

“He was hot and it’s really hard to come to the big leagues, the first guy that you’re facing is deGrom, and then you have to face Wheeler and then you have to face Matz,” Rojas said. “It’s not an easy task.”

Once Diaz inevitably starts hitting more, he knows he’ll think back to his first week in the Majors fondly, particular his debut against deGrom -- and not just because he belted a home run of the reigning Cy Young Award winner in his third at-bat.

He was thrust right into the fire. He knows it can only help rush him into production.

“It’s good to get that out the way immediately and now just to get back to focusing on baseball,” Diaz said. “Those three ABs are probably going to be one of my favorite ABs of my career, but now it’s just a matter of preparing and having a better understanding.”