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Yainer Diaz

Yainer Diaz shines despite Opening Day loss

Yainer Diaz had three hits for the Yankees on Opening Day

HOUSTON – Throughout the offseason, Yainer Diaz posted videos of himself taking batting practice or lifting in the weight room. The weights he propelled upward weren’t the only heavy burdens that Diaz had to overcome. 

A year after being former Astros catcher Martin Maldonado’s apprentice, it was Diaz’s turn to man Houston’s pitching staff. Diaz is praised as a hard-hitting catcher. However, his poor plate discipline seemed to diminish the young slugger’s playing time as former Astros’ manager Dusty Baker relied religiously on Maldonado. 

Diaz, 25, caught All-Star Framber Valdez for the first time in the regular season Thursday afternoon. While they did train vigorously during spring training, Opening Day was the start of what could be a dynamic duo this season for the Astros.

Valdez praises Yainer Diaz

Valdez’s primary catcher who he relied on enormously to call a great game and calm him down in high leverage situations now sports a White Sox uniform. Even though it was a shaky start for the southpaw, he is adamant Diaz called a great game. 

“I thought he did well,” Valdez said. “He communicated well. He did a good job back there catching. He did a good job catching the sinker, the curveball and the change up.”

Diaz, a native of Azua, Dominican Republic, showed that his offseason workout routine paid dividends. He recorded three hits in the 5-4 loss against the Yankees on Opening Day.


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Two of the three hits were over 98 mph off the barrel. Diaz’s RBI single to right field drove in the Astros’ third run in the first inning off left-handed pitcher Nestor Cortes

Pitchers took note of Diaz’s aggressive nature at the plate and would frequently throw him a plethora of breaking balls off the plate last season, knowing that he might swing at them. 

Diaz’s plan is to avoid pitchers’ pitches and swing at strikes in the strike zone. During his last at-bat against reliever Ian Hamilton, Diaz laid off a great slider and sinker that were low and away. Usually that has been his kryptonite. 

Nonetheless, taking time to enhance his pitch recognition rewarded him with a base hit on the fifth pitch he saw.

Solid day at the plate

“I focused on finding a good pitch to hit to make better contact,” Diaz said. “I didn’t want to fall for the pitcher’s pitch. I can see that the work I put in is giving me better results. I have better vision. I let the ball get a little deeper, and thank God I got better results.”

The Astros loss after wasting a four-run lead to then fall to the Yankees 5-4 overshadowed Diaz’s three-hit game. Last season the 6-foot backstop had four games with three or more hits. He added to his tally in the first game of the season. Rookie manager Joe Espada inserted Diaz in the seventh spot of the Astros’ hard-hitting lineup.

“I liked his short swing, hitting the ball to all fields, and not trying to do too much,” Espada said of Diaz. “That is exactly the Yainer Diaz we want to see. He actually stayed in the zone and swung at good pitches.”

There is a lot of anticipation of what Diaz can do with a full season to work with. He showed glimpses last season that he can be a future All-Star. Diaz is known for having a good arm and a bat that needs to be refined. 

His refinement on plate discipline and a shorter approach at the plate could potentially provide the Astros another powerful bat in their already star-studded lineup.

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