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Edwin Diaz specializes in closing doors, but he is leaving the door for a return to the Mets very much open.
The star reliever, who can be a free agent after the season, said he is hopeful he’s not in the middle of his last season in Queens.
“If they give me the chance, I’d love to stay here,” Diaz said before the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field on Friday. “My family feels comfortable here in New York. I feel comfortable here with the team. I like my teammates.
“Looking forward to see if I can stay here.”
Barring a late-season extension, Diaz will hit the open market for the first time on a high note. The closer has 18 saves, a 1.89 ERA and is on a record-setting pace for strikeouts.
Diaz, who did not pitch Friday, punched out at least two batters in each of his past five appearances — all scoreless — bringing his strikeouts-per-nine-innings mark up to 17.8.
Among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched in a season, the all-time record belongs to Aroldis Chapman, who struck out 17.7 per nine in his 2014 campaign with the Reds.
Diaz, who has allowed just one run in his past 14 ²/₃ innings, is flirting with history that should help make him an All-Star when the reserves are revealed on Sunday. He has locked down the Mets’ ninth innings (and occasionally eighth) and put himself on the radar as a top arm in the upcoming free-agency season.
The 28-year-old said the Mets have not talked to him about an extension. Other potential Mets free agents, including Brandon Nimmo and Chris Bassitt, also have expressed interest in returning but have said the club has not brought up extensions during the season.
“I’m focusing on the season right now,” Diaz said. “I want to help this team to win, and let’s see what happens in the future.”
After a rough first season in Queens, in which he allowed 15 home runs in 58 innings, Diaz has quieted concerns and rediscovered the form that made him a Mariners All-Star. Year 4 with the Mets has been Diaz’s best since he and Robinson Cano came over in the oft-revisited Jarred Kelenic swap.
Diaz’s 100-mph fastball and wipeout slider have never been in question, but his command wavered in previous seasons. He said this offseason he made throwing first-pitch strikes a goal, which has elevated his game. Diaz had thrown a strike in the first pitch of an at-bat a career-high 69.7 percent of the time this season, up from 60.2 percent last year.
The other major change for Diaz has been throwing his slider significantly more than he had before. His fastball always has been his lead pitch, but a slider hitters batted just .171 against has become his most frequent weapon, thrown 54.4 percent of the time.
“I just follow the catchers,” said Diaz, a constant in a bullpen that has had ups and downs. “They call all nine innings, so when I come in in the ninth, they know the types of hitters.”
That’s the kind of comfort with his team and teammates that has him open to another year with the Mets.