08/31/11 11:46 PM ET
Braves acquire familiar face Diaz from Bucs
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"I'm glad I said that," Diaz said on Wednesday afternoon shortly after carrying his Pirates travel bag into a familiar Turner Field clubhouse, where he was reunited with many of his former Braves teammates.
Wren fulfilled his desire to add a right-handed bat to his roster and also made a number of his players happy when he announced that he had reacquired Diaz from Pittsburgh in exchange for a player to be named.
"It was a real pleasant surprise," utility man Brooks Conrad said. "We had no idea we were getting anybody else. If you're looking for a right-handed guy off the bench, Matty D. is the guy. He fits right back in at home."
When Diaz went to sleep in Houston late Tuesday, he knew the fact that he had not pinch-hit in a late-inning situation that night was an indication that he would likely be traded on Wednesday. But it wasn't until after he'd experienced a restless night that he learned he was returning to Atlanta, where he had been a fan favorite during the five previous seasons.
"I couldn't sleep much last night, thinking about where I might be," Diaz said. "Then, at 10:30 [a.m. CT], I got the best news I could have ever imagined. I got on a plane within an hour and a half, I think."
Diaz arrived at Turner Field at around 4 p.m. ET, quickly donned his old No. 23 and prepared to become an integral part of a postseason race again. He batted sixth and started in right field against left-hander John Lannan and the Nationals on Wednesday night.
Lannan would not have minded if the Braves had waited another day to make this deal, as Diaz entered the game having hit .400 with four doubles against the southpaw.
"When the guys heard that we acquired [Diaz], they were excited," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's a great teammate, very well liked. I think he's going to fit right in. What a big piece to have off the bench or even playing against certain left-handers. That's what he does and does well."
Diaz enjoyed a successful return with a two-hit performance that began with a broken-bat bloop single to right field in the second inning.
"It's fun to play," Diaz said. "That's one of the reasons why I busted my hump to get here today. They told me if I got here, then I'd get to play. I hadn't played much lately [with the Pirates]. A chance to play is always better than a chance to sit. I didn't want to waste today, and wanted to make sure I got here tonight for this game."
With Diaz, the Braves have added a proven right-handed pinch-hitter and given Gonzalez some flexibility with his left-handed-heavy outfield mix. Prior to the trade, there were four left-handed hitters -- Michael Bourn, Jose Constanza, Jason Heyward and Eric Hinske -- and Martin Prado.
Diaz could spend some time in right field when an opposing club is starting a tough left-handed pitcher. There will also be instances when Diaz is used in left field, when Chipper Jones rests and Prado plays third.
"He'll give us big at-bats late in the game against a left-handed bullpen guy," Hinske said. "That's one piece we have been lacking. It's a good move for our team."
Wren said that Diaz is a better fit for the club now than he was in the offseason, when the Braves did not necessarily know they would become so left-handed-heavy. At the time they thought they would get some production from the since-released Joe Mather.
Diaz established himself as a Major Leaguer while primarily being used in a left-field platoon for the Braves from 2006-10. With Prado moving to left field on a daily basis, the Braves approached this season knowing that Diaz wouldn't get the at-bats that would justify the salary he likely would have received through arbitration.
This led Diaz to sign the multi-year deal he was seeking with the Pirates, who gave him a two-year, $4.25 million contract in December. He is owed approximately $300,000 for the remainder of this season and $2 million in 2012. The Braves received undisclosed cash considerations in the trade to help offset some of this cost.
"I didn't think I would get to go anywhere, because I had signed a two-year deal," Diaz said. "This just works out absolutely perfect."
During the early portion of this season, Diaz uncharacteristically struggled against left-handed pitchers, recording just two hits in his first 20 at-bats against them. But he has seemingly regained his mojo while hitting .388 against southpaws since June 15.
During his five seasons with the Braves, Diaz routinely frustrated left-handed pitchers, hitting .335 with a .538 slugging percentage against them during the stint.
If Diaz can produce similar success, he should help the Braves, who entered Wednesday's game with a Major League-low .226 batting average against left-handed pitchers.
"Hopefully, baseball-wise, getting back here where people know my funky swing, I can get something to click and put on a push here at the end of the season," Diaz said.
Wren said that there is a chance he could further upgrade his club with another acquisition. To be eligible for an organization's postseason roster, players have to be a part of that organization before midnight on Wednesday.
The Braves have made an offer for veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, but the Dodgers said they do not plan to trade him.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.