2005-04-22 / Sports

Diaz’ Hot Start May Hasten Mets’ Decision To Trade Cameron

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

Victor Diaz (right) is congratulated by Cliff Floyd (left) and his fellow Mets’ teammates after the first of two home runs against Philadelphia last Tuesday night. (AP/Rusty Kennedy)Victor Diaz (right) is congratulated by Cliff Floyd (left) and his fellow Mets’ teammates after the first of two home runs against Philadelphia last Tuesday night. (AP/Rusty Kennedy) Things could get very interesting next week for the Mets. With Mike Cameron expected to come off the disabled list, the most logical choice to be sent down to Triple-A Norfolk would be Victor Diaz, the current right fielder. There in lies the rub.

First things first. Jose Reyes and David Wright are the future of this club, no ifs ands or buts about it. Whether you’re watching them on the field or seeing them on TV commercials, it’s obvious that the Mets are planning on their young duo to lead the franchise for years to come.

But there is another player that is working his way into the hearts of the Shea faithful. Diaz, only 23 years of age, is making the Mets brass sit up…no…stand up, and take notice. His two-homer performance in New York’s 16-4 rout of the Phillies last Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park validated what many already knew about the young slugger: he can hit. The problem lies with Cameron. As the expected right fielder, not to mention the fact he’ll be earning almost $7 million this year, Diaz’s days in the Mets outfield seem to be numbered. Manager Willie Randolph will either bench him (there’s no way Cameron and his salary will sit) or do what’s best for the youngster in the short-term: a trip to Norfolk where he can play everyday.

That being said don’t look for him to stay below the Mason-Dixon Line for long. It’s no secret the Mets would love to move Cameron for some much-needed bullpen help. Add in Diaz’s current numbers: a .343 batting average, three homeruns, six RBIs and 11 runs scored, and the only thing holding up a trade is Cameron proving he’s healthy.

Diaz’s offensive approach has been compared to that of Boston superstar OF Manny Ramirez, right down to his batting stance and follow-through. Of course, those comparisons must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, Diaz has already wowed the Mets with his opposite field power (think last year’s game-tying homerun off Cubs closer LaTroy Hawkins in late September) and his play of late, aside from forgetting how many outs there were in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game and getting doubled off second, something that Randolph said would “be dealt with.”

He got a chance to make quick amends with his manager, sending a hanging curveball over the 401 sign in centerfield off the Phils’ Vincente Padilla the next night. Apparently, Philadelphia thought it was a fluke as Padilla served up one more off-speed pitch. This time Diaz muscled it into the left field bleachers for another two-run shot and the first multiple homer game of his career.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Diaz was signed out of high school in Chicago by the Los Angeles Dodgers. A second baseman coming up, he was shipped to the Mets in the Jeromy Burnitz trade in 2003 a deal that just may go down as one of the best in Mets history.

Of course, it’s too early to tell. There have been plenty of 23-year olds who have come up and hit the daylights out of the ball only to see their careers fizzle once big league pitchers adjust. But this guy might be different.

Sure, he was never part of the original, Reyes-Wright plans, but so what? Winning organizations don’t mess around with a talent like Victor Diaz. The Mets would be foolish to start now.

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