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‘Tremendous’ Edwin Diaz hoping to build off Mets turnaround

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PORT ST. LUCIE — There is not much from 2020 that the general population would like to repeat this year.

But the Mets and Edwin Diaz have a case.

Diaz bounced back in the Mets bullpen last season after a disastrous first campaign in Queens and believes he can use it as a springboard for the full 162-game season this year — even if the Mets don’t officially name him their closer.

“I think last season was really important for me,” Diaz said through an interpreter Tuesday at Clover Park. “I had a tremendous season last year. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, but I know my mindset in my preparation is to be the closer of this team.”

Manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday that he wanted to maintain flexibility in having Diaz as an option to pitch in the seventh or eighth inning, based on matchups, but that the right-hander may well end up getting the most ninth-inning opportunities. If Diaz can look more like his non-2019 self, though, it will hardly matter what the Mets call him.

After posting a 5.59 ERA with seven blown saves in his first year as a Met, following the trade with Robinson Cano from the Mariners, Diaz gave up a run in two of his first three appearances last season before allowing three earned runs over his final 23 games. He still blew four saves on the season, but none came during the Mets’ playoff chase in September, when he gave up just one run in 11 ²/₃ innings while striking out 20.

Edwin Diaz at spring training.
Edwin Diaz at spring training.
for the NY POST

Diaz’s walks were up in 2020 (from 3.4 to 4.9 per nine innings), but he stopped getting crushed by the long ball (from 2.3 to 0.7 home runs per nine innings).

“I think the biggest difference was the location of my pitches, being able to command my fastball and my slider,” Diaz said, attributing his improved command to slight mechanical tweaks he made after watching video.

The Mets showed interest in some of the top free-agent relievers on the market this offseason, but ended up adding Trevor May and Aaron Loup, who have mostly been used as setup men. That would leave the bulk of the save chances for Diaz, who believes he can sustain his 2020 performance — in particular the late movement on his pitches that made him more unhittable.

“The stuff is tremendous, electric,” Rojas said. “He’s a guy we have full trust in and he should be one of those guys that pitches at the end of the game, if not the guy that gets the most chances pitching at the end of the game.”

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.

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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.



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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”

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