Diaz on part-time role: Not a problem

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Braves outfielder Matt Diaz will have a part-time role this season, and obviously rookie right fielder Jason Heyward is a big reason why.

But Diaz and other Braves saw this coming before Heyward peppered cars with batting-practice homers in the first week of camp, or put up a plus-.500 on-base percentage and a tape-measure home run against Detroit in the first week of Grapefruit League games.

“I think last year leaving camp, and especially when Frenchy [Jeff Francoeur] was traded,” Diaz said, “the assumption was kind of made then that [Heyward] was our right fielder, coming soon.

“Some of us expected to see him a little bit last season, but there’s no doubt — especially with the way he handled himself early in camp — there was no doubt that he would make the team this spring.”

Diaz said that not with a tone of resignation, but excitement. Like the rest of the Braves, he’s pleased the Braves put aside factors other than performance — i.e. Heyward’s youth or contract ramifications — and made the decision to have the phenom on the opening day roster.

“Oh yeah,” Diaz said. “I’m sure the fans are pleased, but I know this locker room’s very, very pleased. We’re all pumped. We know he can help us. He’s going to make pitchers pitch differently.

“Whether he hits for power or not, he brings that threat to a pitcher, and he’s going to make them bear down. It’s another piece of depth on our team. Makes us a really deep team.”

With Heyward in right field, Diaz could end up sharing time in left with versatile offseason addition Melky Cabrera, a switch-hitter who figures to also play some in center field and some in right.

Diaz has hit .322 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 at-bats this spring.

“Matty’s ready to go,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s swinging great. He’s Matty.”

Diaz’s .310 career average and .817 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) includes a .347 average and .921 OPS against lefties. In 2009 his lefty-righty disparity was more extreme than ever: He hit a torrid .412 with a 1.104 OPS vs. lefties, and .255/.779 vs. right-handers.

“I have no idea how it’s going to work,” Diaz said. “I just know we have four really good outfielders, and Bobby always finds a way to find people playing time. I’m sure if he feels I have the hot hand, I’ll get to play. I don’t know what position, I don’t know when. I’m sure the other guys are the same way.

“Melky’s a switch-hitter and the other two guys are left-handers. I may not [straight-] platoon with Melky, but I imagine I’ll get quite a few at-bats against lefties and hopefully earn some at-bats against righties throughout the course of the year. And God forbid something happen injury-wise, we’re deep. If any one of us go down … any of the four of us, I truly believe, could play every day if needed. It’s a great situation to be in.”

56 comments Add your comment

BravesfaninWis

March 31st, 2010
3:22 pm

Chief Nock A Homa

March 31st, 2010
3:26 pm

Gotta love Diaz… That’s the kind of guy you want on your team…

Bill Mc

March 31st, 2010
3:27 pm

True class act. Play him as much as possible Bobby! He has earned it.

Curtis

March 31st, 2010
3:52 pm

I don’t understand why they don’t put Matty in Left, Melky in Center, and Heyward in Right.

McLouth can come off the bench when he learns how to hit again.

Scott

March 31st, 2010
3:54 pm

What about Hinske?

C. Tampa Ironworse

March 31st, 2010
3:58 pm

DOB, great numbers on R vs L with Diaz. He KILLS lefties and you know what…he just one of those guys you NEED to be involved on the team. He really seems to be a positive guy and a great teammate. I hated him when he first came up and yelled at the TV when he came to bat. Now he’s one of my top 5 Favs in the Chop Shop. So let’s hope BC kicks the Acosta types to the curb and keeps Matty D involved.

leland

March 31st, 2010
4:06 pm

Way I see it, BoCo will get plenty of playing time for that twenty-year-old rookie phenom, J-hey, M-Di, and Me-Ca.

leland

March 31st, 2010
4:07 pm

Not to mention N-Mc.

leland

March 31st, 2010
4:08 pm

And, of course, C-Jo.

rammerjammer

March 31st, 2010
4:16 pm

Diaz is ALWAYS an inspiration. DOB, thanks for interviewing him.

tjhook

March 31st, 2010
4:16 pm

Matt Diaz, I got love for you and your good news attitude, bro.

Mike Jay

March 31st, 2010
4:22 pm

Love Diaz. True proefessional and a rarity these days. While I would love to see him get a chance to be ‘the’ man in left field and play everyday I totally get the platoon thing with him.

beachcomber

March 31st, 2010
4:29 pm

Diaz will get plenty of AB’s. By the way, another scoreless inning for Chavez today. Scary.

Navigator

March 31st, 2010
4:36 pm

McLouth should be on the bench not Diaz, but good old BCox has got to run his platoon. Is this year over yet, I’m already looking forward to next year. You know Cox is going to try to come back next year, so look for that to take place as soon as the season is over.

BM-L26

March 31st, 2010
4:36 pm

Matt Diaz is a true team player, and I think, one of most everybody’s favorite Braves. I hope the Braves won’t ever do something ignorant, and trade him.

Scott

March 31st, 2010
4:37 pm

“I hated him when he first came up and yelled at the TV when he came to bat.”

What are you referring to?

JROG

March 31st, 2010
4:38 pm

Love Diaz. Great to have as a Brave. Really think they should let him lead off. He’s actually faster than everybody except McLouth and speed doesn’t matter if you’re not on base.

BM-L26

March 31st, 2010
4:39 pm

I never could understand why Cox was always so hell bent on platooning Diaz.

bruce

March 31st, 2010
4:47 pm

Great story on Matt. Matt being Matt. Thanks Dave.
Here is Matt’s brother Jonny Diaz singing his latest hit single Stand For You. Been hearing it a bunch on the radio.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=af-4-eY13OM

meh

March 31st, 2010
4:57 pm

Matt Diaz is my hero!!

Dawgdad

March 31st, 2010
5:06 pm

Matt is one great guy and the type every team needs if it is going to win. To have the attitude he has, given his proven ability to hit is amazing. Most guys with his stats would be demanding to play or asking for a trade.

I watched this trend as my son played his way through HS baseball. It seems the coaches know the kids with the good attitude, the kids who will not get p’od when they have to ride the pine, and it seems these kids ride that plank more than they should. Having been a coach I know that it is a challenge to do what is right, do I play the gamer that performs a little better than the whiner with the big ego and suffer with the sulking or do I play the whiner and hope that today is his day. It is so temping to play the whiner, because he poisons the team while sitting on the bench. It just seems that the Matty D’s of the world make it easy on the coach, which is why they are always the coaches favorite player. Don’t know how a player like Matt breaks out of this, without demanding to play. Tough spot to be in.

Josh

March 31st, 2010
5:11 pm

Love…Love Matt Diaz. Need more players like him. What an underrated player he is.

Neal

March 31st, 2010
5:11 pm

The true definition of TEAM PLAYER!

Beauvighn

March 31st, 2010
5:22 pm

This should be required reading for all professional athletes..What a true team player. Matty D has been one of my favorites for a while and it is because of this big team little me attitude. And BTW, it wouldn’t hurt some of the younger level athletes to read this as well.

Eric from MO

March 31st, 2010
5:32 pm

Do you people even pay attention? McLouth is 5-15 and that isnt even counting the 15 or so at-bats against AAA where he was batting over .400. You all do know ST doesnt count right, especially the first two weeks of it? Especially for vets who arent fighting for a roster spot. I love Diaz but McLouth has more speed and more pop and a better defensive player.

RJM Dawg

March 31st, 2010
5:32 pm

Diaz is the man!!

BravesfaninWis

March 31st, 2010
5:50 pm

Hinske will be the main backup to Glaus at 1st base. I will be truly surprised to see Hinske play the OF at all this season with who we have as starters and backups. I see Hinske playing 1st base and 3rd base occasionally as well as PH.

wayn-o

March 31st, 2010
5:55 pm

Give McClouth 3 weeks. if something doesn’t click, move him to the bench. Diaz, Cabera & Heyward.

Norm from Cheers

March 31st, 2010
5:59 pm

You village idiots will believe any thing you read. I bet you take as gospel all of those ridiculous Bobby Cox comments as well. As competitive as Matt Diaz is, you know how he truly feels about riding the pine. But he isn’t going to spell it out for the Braves cheerleading blog and it’s pack of sheep.

GovClintonTyree

March 31st, 2010
6:02 pm

McLouth is going nowhere. I think Matty gets 400 ABs in his usual configuration and OPSs .900. He really helps this ballclub.

One thing I’ve noticed that some of us missed is that when he remade his body last offseason, he uncovered some latent speed. The dude was downright fast! With that OBP, nothing wrong with leading him off against RH pitching.

Mr. Enigma

March 31st, 2010
6:05 pm

I love to see there are still people who comment here that just spew ignorant garbage without checking facts.

McLouth is hitting .333 in his last 15 at-bats (not counting the minor league games). I’d say he “figured out how to hit again”.

3DawgKnight

March 31st, 2010
6:10 pm

Why not trade:
McLouth & JoJo to the Yanks for Nick Swisher & Javy Vasquez.
That way we get Vasquez back & fleece the northern oppressors.
Javy never wanted to leave in the 1st place, + he pitches poorly in NY.
They will have him on the block by trade deadline…noy to mention,
we will be his 1st choice to sign as FA next yr.
Swisher is versatle as well, everyone wins! Just thinking out loud.

3DawgKnight

March 31st, 2010
6:14 pm

Okay, Okay, so we have to throw in another piece! Just make sure it’s not somebody we really want. [we still must fleece the *N.O.'s]
*see previous post

Castrologist

March 31st, 2010
6:53 pm

I wanna know who the hell isn’t excited after reading this article!? Outfield is gonna be fine. This team looks pretty strong.

Baseball’s finally here. 4 days till opening day!! Let’s Go Bravos.

castrologist.tumblr.com

stew

March 31st, 2010
7:29 pm

Diaz only hits for average and his defense is just adequate. Corner outfielders should produce runs.

Heath

March 31st, 2010
7:30 pm

cdog

March 31st, 2010
7:31 pm

if the braves are going to win please keep jason heyward away from chipper jones.his injuries will start to rub off on him.baseball is not a contact sports so injuries should not be on a regular bases.

Castrologist

March 31st, 2010
7:42 pm

I’ll take an outfielder who doesn’t get himself out all the time than Jeff Francouer. Nothing against Jeff but he was tough to watch at times and Diaz is a better hitter, albeit without huge home-run power. Having the depth is especially important when you don’t have the big-time power. The outfield should produce enough power for the team to be successful with McClouth, Melky, Diaz, and Heyward all capable of takin’ em deep.

Castrologist

March 31st, 2010
7:45 pm

Tell a catcher who gets his ass run-over at the plate that baseball isn’t a contact sport.

castrologist.tumblr.com

Delmar

March 31st, 2010
10:44 pm

That’s why I bought a Diaz jersey!

john

April 1st, 2010
12:24 am

Geez, I hope they’re planning to platoon him with Mclouth instead of Melky.

bravesgirlnc

April 1st, 2010
1:23 am

Love Matty D. Love him.

kjb

April 1st, 2010
1:35 am

what yall think about leading off j. heyward, he seems to have great plate discipline, or matt diaz.

George

April 1st, 2010
8:19 am

Matt Diaz has proven on and off the field what a class guy he is. He should be the starting left fielder no matter who is pitching until he Proves he cannot handle the job.

NEW CARS

April 1st, 2010
8:25 am

If Matt was in New York or Boston, he would be a big-time cult hero and get more pub…He’s always reminded me of Lou Piniella, except Lou got a chance to start early in his career..And Matty doesn’t seem to be a flaming hothead like Sweet Lou…I do think his weakness as a free swinger becomes exposed when he plays every day….That being said, I hope we keep him for a few more years and then give him a job in the organization

Editor Mike

April 1st, 2010
9:37 am

C.T. Ironworse: “I hated him when he first came up and yelled at the TV when he came to bat.”

Scott: What are you referring to?

Editor Mike: “I hated him when he first came up[,] and [I] yelled at the TV when he came to bat” is the probably what he intended to say.

Mitchell

April 1st, 2010
9:38 am

Of all the ridiculous changes and occurences in baseball (World Series in November, anyone?) they should start the season on the last Monday of March.

I mean, April 5th is not crazily late to have opening day but I think they should have had it this past Monday.

Enough with Spring Training already. Enough with November baseball. I mean, 9/11 is one thing but that shouldn’t happen twice.

GTSteve

April 1st, 2010
9:43 am

You could not go wrong with a team full of Matt Diaz’s….good guy

Wiger Toods

April 1st, 2010
9:50 am

I yearn for the days when the Braves outfield as a combined unit could hit more than 15 home runs.

JeanE

April 1st, 2010
10:13 am

My absolute favorite Braves player: awesome guy, so fun to watch and just love his intensity, everyone could learn from Matty how to be the quintessential team player, go Matty D!!! Also have a soft spot because my son’s name is Matty…

Go Braves!

April 1st, 2010
10:24 am

I have not followed Diaz very closely but I must say that I have never seen so many consistently positive comments about a player for any Atlanta team. I’ll definitely keep a sharper eye on Diaz this year. I agree with the other comments that McLouth should sit the bench, not Diaz, until he remembers how to hit because speed doesn’t matter if you are not on base.

bravesgrl4life

April 1st, 2010
10:27 am

I have said it before, and will continue to say this: I am proud that Matt Diaz is from my home area in Polk County, FL. I moved from there a long time ago, but it will always be “home” and it makes me beam with pride to see Lakeland produce such a class act. Love Matty D.

Tom B.

April 1st, 2010
10:36 am

you can’t put Melky in center when you have McClouth whose much better defensively. I’m not even sure why we got Cabrera……

Braves Fan For Better or Worse xo

April 1st, 2010
10:45 am

This stinks! Matty Diaz is a great solid player! And has to share with the next one-year contract wonder the Braves dragged in. How about rewarding consistence and numbers with a chance to play full time? Wish Ted would buy the team back!

skip

April 1st, 2010
10:50 am

A class act, no question about it. you just love watching him succeed. should be be a starter? probably not, but it sure was fun watching him rip the ball like he did the end of last year. I think its amazing…. Some of the hacks he takes at the ball look so bad, like he’s trying to swat a fly. then with two stikes he bears down and smooths one for a BH. Its always an adventure with matty. A great guy, a great clubhouse guy, just all around a true ambassador for the bravos! 4 Days 5 hours and 10 minutes, not that im counting or anything :)

Brent

April 1st, 2010
3:47 pm

The “platoon” that I would like to see is in the batting order between the 1 and 8 holes. Against righties, bat McLouth leadoff and Diaz eighth. Against lefties, bat Diaz leadoff and McLouth eighth. The biggest thing you want out of your leadoff hitter is to get on base so the 2-3-4 hitters can drive him in. As has already been stated, Diaz had a .464 OBP against lefties last year (and .531 in the 10 games he batted leadoff). And while he might not be a burner, he did have 12 SBs and 4 triples last year, so he’s not deficient in the speed department. McLouth had a .371 OBP against righties, so by alternating those two in the leadoff spot, you end up with a .396 OBP out of your “composite” leadoff hitter, which is tremendous, with 15-20 steals and some decent pop (25-30 doubles, 15-20 HR). I’m sure Bobby will want to get Melky 2-3 starts a week to keep everybody fresh/sharp. As a switch hitter, Cabrera was fairly even against righties and lefties last year, though slightly better against righties over his career. I could see him starting one game a week for Nate when they face a lefty, and two games for Matty D against righties. BTW, Diaz is no slouch against righties. If you compare career numbers vs RHP – Diaz (.276, .334, .387) and Melky (.275, .332, .395) are pretty even, so there’s not a drop-off in starting Cabrera. Overall, here are my projected lineups against righties & lefties:

vs RHP:
1- McLouth, CF
2- Escobar, SS
3- C.Jones, 3B
4- Glaus, 1B
5- McCann, C
6- Heyward, RF
7- Prado, 2B
8- Diaz/Cabrera, LF

vs LHP:
1- Diaz, LF
2- Prado, 2B
3- C.Jones, 3B
4- Glaus, 1B
5- McCann, C
6- Escobar, SS
7- Heyward, RF
8- McLouth/Cabrera, CF

One thing to note there is that Escobar has some backwards splits and actually does considerably better against righties (.382 career OBP), thus slotting him as my #2 against RHP and why I didn’t flip him & McCann at the 5-6 against lefties, since McCann actually handled LHP decently prior to last year. I assume that in real life Bobby will probably keep Prado in the #2 hole against both, which I don’t really have a problem with for the sake of consistency. Also interesting is that the one OF I don’t have platooning in some way is Heyward, since, according to my source on his minor-league splits, he handled himself quite well against LHP in his rise through the system (.950 OPS vs LHP, .975 OPS vs RHP last year). In reference to the earlier comment about the Braves’ OF collectively hitting more than 15 homeruns, we will likely see 15-20 out of each spot (LF,CF,RF) in 2010. Of course, the above doesn’t even take into consideration our bench of Infante, Hinske, Ross (solid for a backup C) and Conrad/Thurston, which could be a real bonus for us this year.
I’d love to hear any comments or critiques on this. Let me know what you think. Go Braves!

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