For the first time since suffering a torn patellar tendon during the World Baseball Classic, New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz on Wednesday expressed some optimism he would be able to pitch sometime this season. At the time of the injury, Mets GM Billy Eppler said it typically comes with an eight-month recovery, which would rule Díaz out for 2023.

"I'm feeling great. Working hard to see if I can come back as soon as possible. Everything is going in the right direction right now. The doctors say I'm doing great. I'm really happy," Díaz told reporters Wednesday (video). "... They want me to get better with my knee first, and then they will see how I'm responding with my strength, all these things I have to do, then I start throwing. If the tests come back good, I might throw this year. As of right now my knee is doing great. We are moving in a good direction."

Díaz, 29, suffered the injury celebrating Puerto Rico's upset win over the Dominican Republic at the WBC. It was a fluke injury -- Díaz simply collapsed to the field after his teammates joined him on the field -- but a costly one nonetheless. Díaz was on crutches when he was introduced to the Citi Field crowd during the Mets home opener earlier this week.

Needless to say, Díaz returning at any point this season is unlikely, though it would be a tremendous story. Even if the Mets make it to the World Series, that's only seven months out from the injury, and it would be fair to wonder how effective Díaz can be after the long layoff and a hasty rehab. But, as long as the doctors approve the rehab work, he'll keep pushing to return soon.

Although veteran David Robertson has recorded the team's only two saves this season, the Mets have not named a dedicated closer to replace Díaz. Manager Buck Showalter is using Robertson as part of a late-inning committee with fellow righty Adam Ottavino and lefty Brooks Raley. Righty John Curtiss is rising up the depth chart as well.

In other Mets injury news, reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is "very close" to ramping up his rehab work, Showalter told reporters Wednesday (per Newsday). The Mets leave for a 10-game, 12-day West Coast trip following Wednesday afternoon's homestand finale. Verlander will rehab at the club's spring training facility while the team is on the trip.

The Mets signed Díaz (five years, $102 million) and Verlander (two years, $86.7 million) to massive contracts this past offseason. Díaz's deal is the record for a reliever in terms of both total guarantee and average annual value. Verlander's contract ties co-ace Max Scherzer's annual average value record.

In addition to Díaz and Verlander, the Mets are also without Sam Coonrod (lat), Elieser Hernández (shoulder), Tommy Hunter (back), Bryce Montes de Oca (Tommy John surgery), José Quintana (rib), and Stephen Ridings (lat). Their pitching staff has been hit hard by injuries early in 2023.