While everyone knows about Elias Diaz’s throwing arm by now, the Indianapolis pitchers have been raving early in the season about the work that he puts in with them to learn situational tendencies and their individual personalities.
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said that Diaz’s focus this season will revolve around learning about each of the hurlers. According to his pitching staff, he is passing with flying colors early in the campaign.
“He is always asking questions and talking to guys out there,” Indianapolis pitcher Adrian Sampson said. “He is wondering how to get better at it, which is hard to do. It is just a little bit at a time, but he is one of the best that I have seen. I have been playing the game for a while. It is an honor to have him back there.”
Sampson and fellow right-hander Nick Kingham have been working with Diaz for the past couple of years in the minor league system.
“I have played with [Diaz] for a while from Low- and High-A to last year in Double-A and Triple-A,” Kingham said. “I have played with him at all of the levels and he has just become an outstanding catcher. He is a solid guy off the field, but on the field, he has made so many improvements and he is going to be a star for sure.”
While Diaz admitted that the comfort with Sampson and Kingham is there, he will need to work on getting comfortable with the other pitchers this season.
“[Learning the pitchers] is difficult,” Diaz said. “You have to be focused all of the time. You have to know every pitcher and what is the best pitch for them and the situation…I know some of the pitchers from last year, like Kingham and Sampson and some of the relievers like Morris. It makes it easier for me, because I already know how they throw. I have to keep working with the other pitchers every day and make it very comfortable.”
For newcomers to the organization like Chris Volstad, the work with Diaz started in Spring Training. The right-hander has raved about the catcher since then, and it has not changed.
“[The relationship with Diaz] has been really great,” Volstad said. “He has worked really hard…All of the catchers have made it a priority to get to know the pitchers. They ask a lot of questions and build a relationship like that. In between innings, they talk about the previous inning or the upcoming inning. They work through the game and really do a nice job.”
While Wilkin Castillo caught Volstad in his first start on Saturday night, he still noticed how Diaz helped Kingham and Sampson out of some tight situations in the two nights prior. In addition, Volstad said that Diaz’s arm can really make a difference in their approach. He said that it allows them to focus more on executing pitches, rather than just being quick to the plate.
While the arm is a luxury, it can also be a dangerous topic, as Sampson joked.
“It is scary out there because for me, I always have to be on my toes,” Sampson said. “You never know when he is going to jump up and try to pick off somebody or catch somebody stealing. He is so quick back there, that you have to get down and get out of the way.”
Treanor also gave Diaz rave reviews on his arm.
“I am not sure if there is anybody who throws better in the game,” Treanor said. “It is a wow factor when he throws the ball. We are just trying to get him consistent back there and consistent on his release.”
With this arm and the hard work that he is putting in, Diaz has the chance to be one of the best defensive catchers in the game in the long run. If the offensive side keeps up, he could end up in Pittsburgh as the starter for the next couple of seasons.
With Russell Martin, everyone was able to see the difference that a strong defensive catcher can make. Diaz has a chance to be even better behind the dish with experience.