When the Texas Rangers media contingent arrived Tuesday to the home clubhouse at Chase Field, the local press had surrounded the Arizona Diamondbacks’ newest player.
Jake Diekman appeared to be charming them, too, in his D’backs hat and black workout attire. When the group interview broke up, Diekman told the visitors that he would talk outside his new confines.
Apparently, he didn’t want to make a scene in front of his new teammates.
Diekman dropped his guard for about four minutes. He broke down a stressful day that saw the Rangers trade him to the other dugout for two minor-leaguers, and then, at the end, he broke down.
Diekman spent only three years with the Rangers, but his life changed immeasurably for the better. In the last year alone, he had his insides reconstructed, was married and found out he is going to be a father.
Is somebody cutting onions in here?
“It’s bittersweet,” Diekman said. “Yeah, ‘15 and ‘16 were amazing. The whole time it’s been amazing. From the front office, to ownership, to coaches, to players ... I don’t want to get weepy. How they handled everything last year. ... Yeah.”
The Rangers acquired Diekman and Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies at the 2015 trade deadline. Just as Hamels revitalized the rotation, Diekman and Sam Dyson helped overhaul a bullpen that had been a weakness most of the season.
Diekman performed well in the postseason after the Rangers won the American League West, and he was a key relief cog as they repeated in 2016. But he missed all but September last season as he underwent three operations to combat ulcerative colitis.
He was recognized with the Richard Durrett Hardest Working Man award in the off-season and has been healthy all season. He pitched far better on the road than at Globe Life Park.
The Rangers sought to trade Diekman because of his contract status. He can be a free agent after the season, and the Rangers, fully in rebuild mode, couldn’t afford to let him possibly walk without getting something for him.
That something is Double A right-hander Wei-Chieh Huang, from Taiwan, and a player to be named. The Diekman trade brought the number of prospects the Rangers acquired in July to nine.
“He’s kind of an undersized, right-handed pitcher,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Really good control. Fastball in the low 90s. Good curveball, but his primary out pitch is a split. Gets a ton of swing and miss. He’s a guy that our scouts have always liked, back to his days as an amateur.”
Daniels and Diekman had only spoken via phone before the Rangers and Diamondbacks closed out their two-game interleague series Tuesday night. They planned to speak to each other face to face, and Diekman predicted more tears.
But he also had a reason to want to talk to Daniels. Though looking forward to being in the postseason hunt with Arizona, Diekman wants to come back to the Rangers in 2019.
“Let’s get this ball rolling,” Diekman said.