PORT ST. LUCIE — Edwin Diaz hasn’t officially been named the Mets closer to start this season, but says he’s a worthy candidate.
The Mets reliever threw in a simulated game Thursday at the team’s spring training complex, rather than travel for a Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals, and retired four of the five batters he faced. Diaz pitched a shutout inning in his previous exhibition game, after allowing two runs on three hits in his initial appearance this spring.
“I am happy with the way I am throwing my slider right now,” Diaz said. “I am throwing it for strikes. I was throwing it for a ball and they swing and miss. They are hitting weak contact, so I am happy with my slider right now.”
Diaz, who lost the closer’s job during an underwhelming first season with the Mets, was asked if he’s been told he’s returning to that role.
“I haven’t talked about that with the manager on the team,” he said. “I am just trying to do my job. If they make that decision to give me the ninth inning, I will feel happy about that.
“I’m thinking I can pitch in the ninth inning. That is my mindset. The next thing is keep pitching good and let them know I am ready to go.”
Manager Luis Rojas was noncommittal when asked if he wants a set closer for Opening Day.
“We have a lot of individuals that can do that, so we could get there,” Rojas said. “We could also have a committee with the guys we have in our bullpen just based on their track history. But we’re not defining roles.”
Rick Porcello was challenged early Thursday, but then it got easier.
In his third start of the exhibition season, the right-hander fired three scoreless innings, on a day the Mets tied the Cardinals 7-7 at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter. Porcello allowed two hits and one walk and struck out four.
Porcello allowed two base runners in a laborious first inning — there was activity in the Mets bullpen — before building momentum.
“This is kind of what this is all about, is being able to find where you need to be physically, mentally and being able to make those adjustments on the fly,” Porcello said. “Today was nice to kind of right the ship and get it on track in a game situation.”