Jose Rafael Diaz
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 315 lb.
Relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz began pitching in the minor leagues in 2002. Despite consistently posting fine seasons - he had a career ERA of 2.79 through 2013 - the 29-year-old Diaz did not reach the major leagues until 2014. He was nicknamed Jumbo due to reaching 300 pounds.
Diaz was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001 and began his career the next season, appearing for the GCL Dodgers (3-1, 1.95, 19 H in 32 1/3 IP), South Georgia Waves (1-1, 3.94 in 3 G) and Great Falls Dodgers (1-1, 3.65 in 3 G). Baseball America rated him as the #5 prospect in the Gulf Coast League, between Leo Nunez and Elizado Ramirez. He saw limited action in 2003 with the Ogden Raptors (1 R in 2 1/3 IP) and South Georgia (0-1, 7.04 in 5 G). He recuperated in 2004 to excel for the Columbus Catfish (1-4, 14 Sv, 2.12, 59 K in 34 IP) and Vero Beach Dodgers (0-1, 6 Sv, 1.64 in 9 G). He led Dodgers farmhands in saves, six ahead of Yhency Brazoban. Baseball America named him the best reliever in the South Atlantic League and as having the best fastball in that circuit. He failed to make the SAL All-Star team as Tom Mastny was picked as the All-Star reliever.
He but suffered elbow issues his last few seasons with the Dodgers, seeing limited action in 2005 (0-1, 0.51 in 16 G between the GCL Dodgers and Vero Beach), 2006 (0-2, 2 Sv, 4.40 in 18 G between the GCL Dodgers, Vero Beach and the Jacksonville Suns) and 2007 (1 R in 1 1/3 IP for the Great Lakes Loons). Due to the chronic injuries, he was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery and missed all of 2008; he had previously had bone chips removed from his elbow on three separate occasions.
He signed with the Texas Rangers for 2009 and was 3-1 with 10 saves and a 3.63 ERA in 36 games, his most work in five years; he walked 23 in 39 2/3 IP. After he refused to pitch in Mexico for 2010, he was released by Texas and signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He split the summer between the Frederick Keys (3-0, 12 Sv, 1.69 in 26 G, 33 K in 26 2/3 IP) and Bowie Baysox (1-0, 4 Sv, 2.16 in 19 G). He was 5th in the O's chain in games pitched and tied Pedro Beato for third in saves. He spent 2011 with Bowie (0-2, 22 Sv, 1.41, 1.06 WHIP, 38 K in 32 IP) and the Norfolk Tides (0-1, Sv, 5.68 in 14 G, 21 H in 12 2/3 IP). He was third in the Eastern League in saves (behind Cory Burns and Noah Krol), tied David Walters for third in the O's chain in games pitched (behind Sean Gleason and Mark Worrell) and was third in the Baltimore system in saves (after Gleason and Walters).
He then signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and went 1-2 with 3 saves and a 3.60 ERA in 41 games for the Indianapolis Indians. On April 29th, he teamed with Justin Wilson and Doug Slaten on a no-hitter versus the Durham Bulls; he retired Jesus Feliciano and Sean O'Malley in the 8th for his part. He pitched in the Cincinnati Reds system in 2013, going 3-4 with 13 saves and a 1.66 ERA for the Louisville Bats; he had a 1.03 WHIP and whiffed 60 in 54 1/3 IP. Only Trevor Bell had more saves by a Reds farmhand and Diaz had the best ERA of any Cincinnati minor leaguer to top 50 innings.
From 2002 to 2013, he has 87 saves and 187 games finished to his credit, while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. He finally got his chance to pitch in the major leagues on June 20, 2014. He was 2-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 30 games at Louisville when he got the call to replace Tony Cingrani on the Reds' roster. However, his major league debut was far from a storybook one. He was put in the game in the 7th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays with the Reds leading, 9-5, but gave up three runs in one inning, including homers by Brett Lawrie and Juan Francisco, as the Blue Jays eventually won the game, 14-9, in one of the biggest comebacks in team history.
- 2013 Reds Media Guide
- Baseball America
- MILB.com on the 2012 no-hitter
- 2002 and 2005 Baseball Almanacs
- John Fay: "Reds call up former 300-plus pound pitcher", USA Today Sports, June 20, 2014.