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Diaz solid in rehab stint at Cafaro



Published: Thu, September 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Indians catcher went 5-for-13 with five RBIs in three games.

By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

NILES -- Einar Diaz leaned over a table, his eyes fixed on a television in the Mahoning Valley Scrappers' clubhouse. The major leaguer seemed to fit in perfectly as he mingled with teammates.

Diaz, the Cleveland Indians' catcher, spent three days at Mahoning Valley rehabilitating an elbow injury that he suffered Aug. 22 while colliding with the Oakland Athletics' David Justice.

"It's special" to have him here, Scrappers catcher Jeff Haase said, "because some guys haven't seen guys like that in certain situations."

Back to the big leagues

Following the Scrappers' 15-2 win Wednesday against the Jamestown Jammers, Diaz returned to Cleveland and will join the Indians in Chicago tonight.

"It's going all right, but I'm still working, taking little by little," said Diaz, a native of Panama, on his rehab. "There's a little pinch, but it's getting better."

In his three games with the Scrappers, Diaz played five, seven and nine innings, respectively. He went 5-for-13 with two doubles and five RBIs for the Scrappers.

Catcher's role

Diaz, 29, is in his fourth consecutive full season with the Indians.

He took over the starting catcher's role last season, playing 134 games and throwing out 35 percent of would-be base stealers. Diaz also led major league catchers with 34 doubles.

But he hasn't been as fortunate this season.

"I've been hurt a lot this year, but I'm trying to finish strong," he said. "I've been getting better in the last three weeks."

With the higher-level minor league teams in the postseason and traveling often, the Indians sent Diaz to Mahoning Valley. It was his first time in Class A since 1995, when he played at Kinston.

"I like the stadium and the fans are nice here," Diaz said of Mahoning Valley. "When I was in the minors, they didn't have as many fans as they have here."

Diaz's arrival coincided with the Scrappers' playoff race, which ended Wednesday when Auburn gained the New York-Penn League's final postseason berth.

"Everybody's been playing hard and hustling," Diaz said. "That's the key to a team."

Keeping his focus

The Indians have undergone numerous roster changes since entering their rebuilding phase and have some talented, young catchers in their minor-league system. Diaz tries to remain focused despite the distractions.

"I have no control over that," he said. "You have to keep playing and then see where you're at. When they make the changes, you have to keep playing and do your job."




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