Edwin Diaz returned Friday to the Mariners’ clubhouse and, before anyone asks, the bleached blond hair that he sported at the World Baseball Classic in unity with his Puerto Rican teammates, is going to go.
"I like it," he said, "but I will put my hair back to black. I did it for the team with Puerto Rico, but here in Seattle, I need to put it black again."
What won’t change, Diaz declared, is the heightened emotion on the mound that he displayed throughout the tournament.
At least not completely.
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"I feel happy when I pitch like that," he said. "When I show my emotion, I do a good job."
Diaz was far from stoic last season as a rookie when he compiled a 2.79 ERA in 49 games after making a June 4 jump from Double-A Jackson, but he took it to a new level over the last few weeks while serving as Puerto Rico’s closer.
"Everybody on out team, and all the Latin teams, do the same thing," he said. "They show their emotion every out, every inning, every hit, every homer. But here, we play baseball the way baseball says is the right way.
"But over there, everybody shows a lot of emotions."
The Mariners, in keeping with their be-who-you-are philosophy, have no plans to rein in Diaz, who converted 18 of 21 save opportunities after becoming their closer in early August.
"I kind of like when he snatches the ball," manager Scott Servais said. "I kind off like when he stomps back up on the rubber and (basically says) here I am, try to hit it. That’s what you need."
The Mariners plan to get Diaz tuned-up for the regular season with back-to-back outings on Sunday against Cincinnati in Goodyear and Monday against Monday against San Diego at Peoria Stadium.
"I’m ready for the season right now," he declared. "I feel great, man."
Servais said repeatedly during the WBC that he believed Diaz would benefit more than any of the Mariners’ other tournament participants by pitching in high-leverage situations in an emotionally-charged atmosphere.
"I know I need to be (able to perform) in that situation," he said, "because if we make the playoffs this year, that’s the kind of situation I’ll need to pitch in. I was feeling relaxed. I did my job.
"I was excited, but I was making pitches. I was relaxed. I showed a lot of emotion, but when I was making my pitches, I was relaxed."
Diaz pitched two scoreless innings in Puerto Rico’s victory over the Netherlands in the semifinals but, after getting permission from the Mariners to make a quick turnaround, did not pitch in the 8-0 loss to the United States in the title game.
"When we got together (before the tournament) in Arizona," he said, "we said, `We want to win, but what we want more is to have the people in Puerto Rico come together.’ Less crime. Unite the people. We did that.
"The past two weeks, nothing (bad) happened in Puerto Rico. Everybody was (cheering) for us. That was the main goal. We wanted to win…but what we really wanted was to have everybody come together in Puerto Rico."
Diaz said that was why Puerto Rico announced plans, prior to the title game, to hold a post-tournament celebration. Outfielder Adam Jones and several other USA players turned those plans a motivational tool, but Diaz has no regrets.
"We went (Thursday) to Puerto Rico," he said, "and they did a parade for us. People got crazy in the streets. It was amazing."
Outfielder Jarrod Dyson missed a third straight day because tired legs.
"He’s fine," Servais said. "His legs are just a little sore. He was ahead of pace to have the most at-bast he’s ever had in a spring training. We just want to make sure he’s at 100 percent before we win him out there.
"He’ll be fine by next week. We just want to slow-play it here."
Dyson, 32, is batting .333 at 13-for-39 in 14 games. The Mariners acquired him from Kansas City in a Jan. 6 trade for right-handed pitcher Nate Karns.
Servais said Dyson could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday but is more likely to remain sidelined until Sunday or Monday.
***Right-hander Rob Whalen, acquired in November from Atlanta, continues to battle an injured calf and might open the season on the disabled list. Whalen, 23, had been ticketed for duty in the Triple-A Tacoma rotation.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners