When the Braves re-acquired Matt Diaz from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later earlier today, they not only brought back a fan favorite, but also a solid right-handed bat they have been looking for, especially off the bench later in the season.
Diaz, who made his debut in 2003 with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, played with the Braves the last five years (2006--10), and his non-stop hustle was contagious.
In the offseason, when it became clear the Braves would not bring Diaz back for a sixth consecutive season, the feeling was ‘Who will do what Diaz did?’.
Through the seasons first five months, it has become apparent that not one Brave on the current roster can consistently provide the same kind of spark that Diaz provided, until the club called up Jose Constanza, who has seen more time on the bench of late after spraining his ankle last week in Chicago.
While Constanza provides the Braves with a left-handed bat that can see southpaws better than most other lefties, the best move for the Braves was to go after a right-handed bat, especially after trading for Michael Bourn at the July 31 deadline.
And with the acquisiton of Diaz, the Braves got what they needed.
In 100 games this season while donning a Pirate uniform, Diaz hit .259/.303/.324, but the biggest drop for the Florida State product was his slugging percentage, which dipped from .438 in 2010 (in 84 games) to .324 so far this year. His career high is .488, when he played 125 games in 2009 and hit 13 home runs.
While he is not known for his power, Diaz has been nothing short of consistent while in a Braves uniform. Of his 5 seasons in Atlanta, three of those saw him hit better than .300, while he did not pass .250 in the other two (2008 & ‘10).
With the Braves struggling against left-handed pitchers (.226/.294/.352), Diaz is a pickup with hopes that Atlanta can turn things around the last month of the year.
Now that Diaz is back in a Braves uniform, the excitement he feels can be measured in a tweet he posted earlier today: “Heading back to Atlanta, enjoyed playing with the Pirate players so much, but i’d be lying if I said I wasn't excited. Time to go back home.”
With the Nationals throwing John Lannan tonight, the time is perfect for Diaz to make his debut, once again, in a Braves uniform.
In 30 career at-bats, Diaz is 12-for-30 against Lannan, who is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA against the Braves this season and 5-0 in six starts for his career.