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Twins Thursday: Scott Diamond demoted after clunker

After another poor start, Scott Diamond was sent to the minors by the Twins.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Diamond was afraid this fate might be coming his way. And after yet another rough outing, Diamond's fear came true.


Following Thursday's 7-2 loss to Kansas City, Diamond and outfielder Aaron Hicks were optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Minnesota recalled outfielder Oswaldo Arcia and will make another corresponding roster move by Saturday.


Diamond, who turned 27 on Tuesday, has not been able to recreate the successful 2012 season in 2013. Thursday's loss dropped the left-hander to 5-10 on the year as his ERA rose to 5.52.


"I was fearful of this actually happening so I think because of it I was just trying to do too much," Diamond said of the demotion. "I just haven't been pitching well. I haven't been executing. I haven't been putting hitters away. I just haven't stopped the bleeding."


Diamond was knocked around for seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in Thursday's loss. After a clean first inning, Diamond allowed runs in each of the next five innings. It started with a two-run second inning by the Royals, who took advantage of back-to-back leadoff singles by Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain, both of whom eventually came around to score.


One inning later, Alex Gordon led off the third with a triple off the wall in right field. He scored on an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly for a 3-0 Kansas City lead. The leadoff runners score again in the fourth and sixth innings as Diamond put his team in a 7-2 deficit.


Thursday's clunker came after Diamond seemingly figured things out one start earlier when he held the Mariners to one run in 6 2/3 innings. But that game appeared to be an anomaly for Diamond, who posted an ERA of 5.30 in 10 starts in June and July.


His initial August start was a continuation of that trend, and it resulted in his first demotion of the season.


"I really just haven't given our team the best chance to win," Diamond said. "If you're not impacting the team and contributing at all, you don't deserve to be here. Right now, I need to go down to Triple-A and figure some things out."


Like Diamond, Hicks had been struggling as of late. The Twins center fielder went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Thursday to drop his average to .192. The 23-year-old Hicks -- who made the jump from Double-A last year to the majors this spring -- batted .230 with 26 strikeouts in July and is now 7-for-43 (.163) dating back to July 19.


"This game is just a business. You have to be able to produce, and produce on a daily basis," Hicks said. "The last couple weeks, I really haven't been producing that well. These are the kind of things that happen to a lot of guys. What's most important is to bounce back.


Arcia has bounced between Triple-A and the majors this year, and has batted .375 with four homers and 13 RBI since his latest demotion on July 19.


Meanwhile, the question now becomes which pitcher will be recalled to take Diamond's spot in the rotation. One strong possibility is 27-year-old Andrew Albers, who is 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts for Triple-A Rochester this year. Albers isn't currently on the Twins' 40-man roster, but there is now a spot to add him after Minnesota traded catcher Drew Butera on Wednesday.


Albers pitched at least eight innings in each of his last two starts and gave up two runs in both games. He pitched Wednesday for Rochester and took the loss but gave up just two runs in eight innings. His next scheduled start would be Monday, but that could be pushed back a day if he does take Diamond's spot in the rotation.


Royals leave town red-hot: These aren't the Royals most Twins fans are accustomed to seeing.


Over the years, Kansas City has been a cellar dweller in the American League Central. But with a win Thursday to complete the three-game sweep, the Royals are now four games over .500 and 6 ½ games behind first-place Detroit. Kansas City's nine-game winning streak is the longest current streak in baseball.


During this three-game series, the Twins saw first-hand why these Royals are much improved. It starts with the starting pitching, something Kansas City put an emphasis on in the offseason.


On Tuesday, it was Ervin Santana shutting down the Twins to help the Royals win the series opener. Santana was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Angels. He was joined in the Royals' new-look rotation by Jeremy Guthrie, who spent a few months with Kansas City last year after a trade with the Rockies. Guthrie later re-signed with Kansas City as a free agent. He beat the Twins on Wednesday night.


Thursday's it was the third pillar of the rotation, James Shields, for whom the Royals gave up top prospect Wil Myers in order to acquire him from the Rays. Shields allowed two runs in six innings Thursday, which was good enough to earn his sixth win of the year.


"They went out and got pitching. That was their goal was to go out and add starters," Gardenhire said. "They've always had pretty decent arms in the bullpen. They have a young team over there. … Their pitching is giving them chances, keeping them in ballgames. They find ways to win."


Trio set for rehab assignments: Three Twins outfielders will all begin rehab assignments in the next few days, general manager Terry Ryan said Thursday.


Josh Willingham, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and hasn't played since June 30, will start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester. Earlier this week, Willingham said he was hoping to rejoin the Twins when Minnesota plays the White Sox in Chicago next weekend. In 70 games this year, Willingham is batting .224 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI.


Meanwhile, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez is continuing to work his way back from a concussion that has sidelined him since May 25. He'll join Double-A New Britain for the next step in his rehab assignment.


Outfielder Darin Mastroianni has been out since April with a stress reaction in his foot. He'll move from the Gulf Coast League to join the High-A Fort Myers Miracle as part of his rehab assignment.


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