Diamond expects fresh start for Twins rotation

MINNEAPOLIS — While the Minnesota Twins spent the offseason overhauling nearly their entire starting rotation from a year ago, one holdover remains from the 2012 season.

That would be left-hander Scott Diamond, who didn’t even start the year in the majors last season. But when Diamond joined the Twins in early May, he became Minnesota’s best starter. He began the year 3-0, including consecutive seven-inning scoreless outings out of the gates.

As numerous starting pitchers were sidelined with injuries and others struggled on the mound, Diamond remained consistent. He finished the year 12-9 — the only Twins pitcher with more than six wins — and posted a 3.54 ERA.

“It started off really hot. I think in the middle it was kind of that learning period where you start to see teams more repetitively,” Diamond said of the 2012 season. “They get to know you, you know them. So that’s why this year is really going to be an evolvement of that. I feel like towards the end of the year, everything started to pick up again and I was starting to get comfortable with that mentality of knowing that I’m going to be facing these guys three, four, five times a year.

“I think last year was a big learning year, but it was also a year I was able to finally put into practice what I’ve been working on.”

Now, Minnesota is hoping Diamond can carry that success into the 2013 season as he joins a bunch of new faces in the rotation. The Twins signed free agents Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey this winter and also traded for Vance Worley. Those three and Diamond will make up 80 percent of the rotation, with one more spot still up for grabs this spring.

“I’ve talked to Kevin and Mike. I got to sit down with Vance for a little bit,” Diamond said late last month at TwinsFest. “It’s going to be good. They’re awesome guys. I think they’re going to fit in real well in the clubhouse. I definitely know that we’re going to learn a lot from each other.”

Diamond had an eventful offseason, spending most of his time in New York City. The 26-year-old Ontario native got engaged just after the season ended and also had his right elbow scoped in December to have a bone chip removed.

While the surgery means Diamond won’t enter spring training at 100 percent, neither he nor the Twins are worried about what it will mean for the season. Diamond began throwing late last month and had previously been doing strength exercises to make sure his arm is in shape.

“The biggest thing about it is that there’s not much rehab you have to do on the actual elbow,” Diamond said. “You just kind of let it heal and make sure the shoulder stays strong, so a lot of the exercises I’ve been doing have been focused on the shoulder.  . . . Probably for the first month of February it’ll be trying to build up that arm strength, just kind of seeing how it feels every day and basing it on that. I think at this point they just want to make sure that we’re always taking a step forward rather than having to take a couple days off.”

Added Twins general manager Terry Ryan: “I think he’ll be pretty darn close to being ready when we break camp.”

Like many of Minnesota’s other pitchers, Diamond took his lumps in 2012. He had a stretch of four straight starts in which he went 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA from late August to early September. But he avoided any major clunkers in his 27 starts, as he only once allowed more than five earned runs in a start.

In a year in which the Twins had the worst rotation in the American League, Diamond was, well, a diamond in the rough. With the addition of three veterans to the staff, Diamond believes things are looking up for the rotation in 2013.

“It seemed like for the last two years, we had good guys. We knew the strengths of everybody,” Diamond said. “Last year the problem was the starting rotation just got hurt. That was the biggest problem then. I think now, we do have kind of a fresh start. We brought some guys in from the outside. I think seeing it that way, people are feeling pretty optimistic about it because we’ve mixed it up and shaken it a little bit.”

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