Pulaski, Va., is a long way from Edwin Diaz's native Naguabo, Puerto Rico, but the 19-year-old made himself at home on the mound Thursday night.
Diaz gave up just one hit while striking out nine in six innings for the Rookie-level Mariners in their 2-1 loss to the Royals in 13 innings at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
"I like [Pulaski] a lot, it has the same weather as Puerto Rico so I feel at home. It's very nice weather," Diaz said.
Diaz used his low- to mid-90s fastball, change-up, and slider in 84-degree heat as he retired the first 15 batters he faced to start the year. He mixed all three pitches like his idol Pedro Martinez, for whom Diaz wears No. 45.
"All three of my pitches were very good, but my slider was the best," Diaz said.
It was a slider away that Burlington's Alex Newman doubled to left to lead field off the bottom of the sixth inning.
"It was a good pitch, but I'll give credit to [Newman]," Diaz said.
"His slider was outstanding," Pulaski pitching coach Nasusel Cabrera said. "I was waiting for this type of outing from him. He's been working very, very hard."
With the leadoff man at second, the right-hander got a groundout and a flyout before fanning Desmond Henry to end his outing.
"After he gave up the hit, he had thrown like 58 pitches," said Cabrera. "He got out of the inning with 74 pitches. It was enough. We planned to have him throw 80 or 75."
Diaz tossed 19 innings in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, striking out 20 but walking 17. He posted a 5.21 ERA in his first taste of professional baseball.
"Pitching in Arizona helped me a lot. Pitching in high school is not the same as pitching in the pros, and I learned a lot about the game," Diaz said.
Diaz has also been focusing on gaining weight and acclimating himself to life in the United States. He weighed 154 pounds when he signed after being selected in the third round of the 2012 Draft, and he has packed on 20 pounds since then.
"I'm working hard in the gym and I'm eating a lot," Diaz said.
He's still looking for a place that serves good rice, beans and fried chicken in Pulaski.
"I haven't found a good place yet, but I will," he said.
Jose Miguel Rodriguez (1-0) earned the win for Burlington, allowing one hit and striking out two with two scoreless innings. Andrew Ayers drove in the winning run with a ground ball to short that Zach Shank mishandled with the bases loaded in the 13th.