- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 187 lb.
1992-1995: Two-Way Player
Ricci debuted in 1992 with his hometown Nettuno club, allowing three runs in one inning. He would spend his whole career with Nettuno. He tossed 4 shutout innings in '93 with six strikeouts and one hit allowed. In 1994, he was 1-3 with a save and a 9.00 ERA, allowing a batting line of .329/.473/.429. He was 0-1 in the finals, as Nettuno fell to Parma. He also was 10 for 30 with a triple, homer and six walks as a part-time outfielder. In 1995, he again was a two-way player, hitting .288/.390/.303 and going 1-0 with a save and a 4.29 ERA. In the finals, he was 0 for 3 at the plate with two whiffs and allowed 8 hits and 6 runs in two innings. Parma again beat Nettuno in the championship. After that season, Ricci would focus on pitching.
1996-2000: Peak years
Diego went 14-2 with a 5.46 ERA in 1996, leading Serie A1 in wins, succeeding his brother Gianni. He bombed in the finals once more, going 1-1 but with 18 hits, 18 runs and 9 walks in 9 innings. Nettuno did win the title for the first time since 1993. The right-hander had another strong record in 1997 at 12-1, 3.93, two wins shy of co-leaders Joel Lono and Francisco Oliveras (a former major leaguer). He was 1-0 with a 6.57 ERA in the finals as Parma topped Nettuno for the third time in four years.
Ricci debuted with the Italian national team that year. In the 1997 European Championship, he was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA as Italy won its last European Championship title until 2010. He was then Italy's top hurler in the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, with two runs (one earned) and nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 IP, a bright spot on a 2-5 team. He was third in the event in ERA, behind only Nicaraguan ace Julio Raudez and future major leaguer Koji Uehara. Finishing 4th was Cuban legend Pedro Luis Lazo.
In the 1998 regular season, he was 11-2 with a save, a 4.13 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 96 innings. He won both of his decisions in the semifinals and his only decision in the finals as Nettuno won it all. He tied Massimo Casseri for the most regular-season victories in the league. In the 1998 Baseball World Cup, he was 2-1 with a 0.52 ERA as Italy's ace. He was again third in a major global tournament in ERA, trailing Ryan Mottl and Jonathan McDonald and .01 ahead of Cuban star Jose Contreras. Ricci also tied for the win lead, even with Lazo, Uehara, Contreras, Yosvani Aragon and Jose Ibar among others. He started the Bronze Medal Game as Italy tried for its first Medal ever in a Baseball World Cup. Facing Nicaragua, he tossed shutout ball for 5 innings, allowed a run in the 6th and tossed another scoreless inning in the 7th. Up to that point, he was dueling Marvin Zelaya evenly. In the 8th, though, he faded, being charged with four unearned runs (an error by Alessandro Flisi proving crucial) and took the loss. Alessandro Parri finished the game for Italy.
Ricci fell to 3-5 with two saves and a 4.59 ERA in 1999, a far cry from his 37 wins from 1996-1998. He walked 50 and struck out 66 in 66 2/3 innings. He was 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA in the finals, which Nettuno lost to Rimini. He had played in the finals for six straight years at this point. He tossed two shutout innings in the 1999 European Championship, fanning four; Italy finished second to the Netherlands. In the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, the 24-year-old was easily Italy's worst performer on the hill, not a role he was used to after his 1997-1998 success on the international stage. He was roughed up for five hits, three walks and six runs in 1 1/3 IP; his 40.50 ERA was nearly double that of Fabio Betto (19.29), Italy's next-worst.
In 2000, Diego was moved to the bullpen full-time by Nettuno. He was 4-2 with 3 saves and a 4.29 ERA. He was hard to hit but showed poor control, with an opposing batting line of .201/.320/.288. His 18 appearances were second on the club behind Juan Carlos Vigna. Ricci allowed one run in one inning in the finals, which Rimini won. In his last stint with the Azzurri, he pitched in the 2000 Olympics. Against South Korea, he relieved Daniel Newman and allowed 2 runs in 3 2/3 IP against the KBO stars. He walked four but struck out six. Italy lost, 10-2, in a blowout as expected. Against Japan three days later, Ricci replaced Fabio Betto and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks in 4 1/3 IP while fanning two. Emiliano Ginanneschi relieved him. His 3.38 ERA for the event was 5th on Italy's 10-man staff.
2001-2007: Winding down
Ricci was on his last champion team in 2001. He was 4-2 with a save and 4.57 ERA in the regular season, with 36 walks in 61 innings. In the finals, he was rocked for six hits, five walks and four runs in 2 2/3 IP but Vigna was dominant to carry Nettuno to the title. After pitching in every final from 1994-2001, he did not appear again in that stage until 2007. In 2003, the 28-year-old returned after a year off to go 2-5 with a save and a 2.97 ERA; he allowed a .298/.387/.347 batting line and gave up no home runs in 63 2/3 innings. He tied Shane Tonkin for 10th in ERA.
In 2004, the veteran Nettuno hurler was 7-5 with a 2.80 ERA despite a .370 opponent OBP. He tied for 10th in wins, was 11th in ERA (between Carlos Richetti and Sandy Patrone) and tied for 5th with 56 walks. Ricci was 7-1 with a save and a 4.21 ERA in 2005 but walked 7 in 8 innings in the semifinals and lost his lone decision. For the regular season, he tied for 12th in wins. In '06, he was 2-1 with a save and a 3.70 ERA. He ended his career in 2007. That year, he posted a 4-1, 4.47 pitching line and a .297/.396/.430 opponent batting line. In the finals, he allowed two runs and four hits in 1 2/3 IP as Nettuno fell to Grosseto.
He retired barely among Italy's all-time top 30 in wins. Overall, he was 83-37 with 12 saves and a 4.69 ERA in 225 games. He walked 623 in 1,012 2/3 innings while opponents hit .253/.361/.365 against him.