Aledmys Diaz is trying to fight his way back to the major leagues after being optioned to Triple A Memphis by the Cardinals last month. (Memphis Redbirds)

By Rob Rains

MEMPHIS – Aledmys Diaz has never been on a roller-coaster, but even without stepping on one of the amusement park rides, he knows all about highs, lows and crazy turns.

“That’s part of my life,” Diaz said.

In the last two years alone, Diaz has gone from the low of being designated for assignment while playing in Double A, dropped from the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, to the high one year later of making the NL All-Star team as a rookie, replacing the injured Matt Carpenter.

Now, 12 months later, his personal roller-coaster ride took an unexpected turn and dropped Diaz off in Triple A, optioned from the Cardinals on June 28 even though he was tied for the team lead in hits at the time.

Diaz, who will turn 27 on Aug. 1, was surprised by the demotion but realizes that is one aspect of baseball which is out of his control. He is determined to use his time in Memphis – however long it is – in a productive manner.

Even on days when Diaz doesn’t get a hit, he wants to make progress, and earn his way back to the major leagues.

“This is about me and my career,” Diaz said. “Sometimes I might want to get mad and think I had a reason to stay there, but at the same time, I can’t do anything about that. I’m a professional and I have to play hard every time, no matter where I am.

“Because I am in Memphis I am not going to be mad and play at 60 percent. I’m a professional and I’m not going to do that. I want to work hard and try to do the best I can to win here and hope I get the chance to play there (St. Louis) again.”

Despite hitting .300 with 17 homers in just 111 games with the Cardinals last year, Diaz said he came to spring training this season with an attitude that he still had to win the starting shortstop position.

“Sometimes people have a good year and they think they are going to play there (in the majors) forever but I don’t think that’s my case,” Diaz said. “Going to spring training this year I knew I had to prove I could stay at that level and play at that level. I have no regrets. I played hard every day and I did my best. It’s part of life, part of the process.

“If I have to prove every time I can play in the big leagues I’m going to do it.”

What might have started Diaz’s slide back to Triple A came last July 31, when he carried a .312 average into that day’s game at Miami. On an 0-2 pitch from Andrew Cashner in the first inning, Diaz was hit by a pitch, breaking his right thumb.

Diaz missed six weeks because of the injury, and hit just .216 in September. He had one of the season’s most memorable hits, a grand slam on Sept. 27, the night he returned from Miami and the memorial service for his childhood friend Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, killed a few days earlier in a boating accident.

Diaz will not cite the injury as an excuse, but he also got off to a slow start this season, hitting .217 in April. It was a far contrast from last April, his first month in the majors, when he hit .423.

“I know this is a tough game,” Diaz said. “I am not going to be at the top every year. I have to fight. But every day I have the chance to put on a uniform I am going to enjoy it and play 100 percent.”

Diaz thinks getting off to a slow start this season, especially compared to how well he did at the start of last year, led to him putting more pressure on himself to try to fight his way out of the slump.

Having a sore thumb didn’t help.

“The thumb was pretty sore, but I tried to grind it out and play every game even if I didn’t feel 100 percent,” he said. “It affects the way you play but I wanted to stay on the field. I didn’t want to go on the DL or make some excuse.

“I might have been swinging the bat or doing something different. In order to play in the big leagues you have to be 100 percent. You can’t play with something hurt. It’s tough. Right now I feel way better after a few days off (for the All-Star break). It was good for my hand to heal.”

Watching that game on television from his Florida home, remembering how it felt to be on the field in the game just a year ago, was another down moment for Diaz.

Returning to Memphis, however, he has put all his disappointments behind him and is looking forward. He knows how different life is in Triple A than the major leagues, and that is serving as his motivation to succeed and force the Cardinals to bring him back to St. Louis.

“In the big leagues you have a lot of pressure because you have a lot of guys behind you in the minors who want to go there,” Diaz said. “At the same time you have everything there, you have the videos, you have the trainers. In the minors it’s tough. There are people who want to help you but it’s not the same.

“At Triple A you have to take a plane at 4 in the morning and sometimes have to play with no rest. The ball is different, everything is different. It’s tough to play here after you have been in the big leagues for a while. But no excuses, I came here and I am going to play hard.”

Diaz knows there are some skeptics who question his ability to be an everyday shortstop in the majors, thinking his future could be better at either second base or third. He does not agree.

“I feel I can play shortstop at that level,” he said. “I want to stay there. At the same time, if I have to play another position I am a professional and I will go there and do the best I can.”

That is virtually the same attitude Diaz has about staying with the Cardinals. He knows the trading deadline is July 31, and that something could happen, but he is trying not to think about that possibility.

“I can’t control that,” he said. “I want to stay in the organization. They gave me an opportunity to go to the big leagues and play. But at the same time if they have other plans I can’t do anything about that. I know this is a business and sometimes they have to make decisions. I’ve proven I can play there. I came here and am going to play hard and if they decide to trade me or give me another chance, I can’t control that.

“I can’t control what they are going to do. I can just control the effort level I am going to put in and the way I go about my business. I’m trying to be a better player. That’s not going to change.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains