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Updated: May 9th, 2012 12:21am
Solid performance by Scott Diamond was a carryover from Triple-A

Solid performance by Scott Diamond was a carryover from Triple-A

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Diamond put forth what might have been the best effort of any starter for the Minnesota Twins this season when he held the Los Angeles Angels scoreless for seven innings on Tuesday night.

For a team in desperate need of quality starting pitching Diamond's performance was refreshing.

Can he keep it up?

Diamond, a Rule-5 pick two offseasons ago, was hit hard in seven starts for the Twins at the end of last season -- 51 hits allowed and 17 walks issued in 39 innings -- and he was among the first pitchers sent down the road to minor league camp in March.

But something apparently clicked in Rochester, as Diamond posted a 2.60 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in 34 2/3 innings. Diamond's catcher on Tuesday night was Drew Butera, who also caught the left-hander down in Rochester and last season with the Twins.

"Honestly, for me, his curveball was just as good last year. I just think his fastball sets that up much better this year," Butera said. "He's throwing a little harder and he's throwing more strikes with it, and he makes guys swing. ... He's doing the exact same thing he was doing down there -- pumping first-pitch strikes and working ahead."

At Target Field on Tuesday Diamond struck out seven and walked only one while recording 11 groundball outs to zero fly ball outs.

MLB does not post Pitch F/X data for minor league games, so it's difficult to see how the quality of Diamond's stuff in Rochester stacked up. But per Pitch F/X data from Tuesday night Diamond's average fastball sat at 89 mph while topping out at 91, and his curveball -- which is really more like a slider -- sat between 80 and 83 mph with some solid bite.

If he continues to locate it down in the zone, that curveball will help keep the ball on the ground.

"I think I'm mixing up my speeds a little better," Diamond said. "My fastball's cutting a little bit, so I'm working a little more appropriately with that, and I'm just trying to work down in the zone -- that's the best way to get groundballs."

Pitchers who maintain exceptional (50% or higher) groundball rates almost always have more downward movement on their fastballs than Diamond has (different than just locating down in the zone).

He's likely to continue getting some grounders and whiffs with his breaking ball, but Diamond's repertoire -- if his stuff remains similar to what he threw on Tuesday -- will likely result in a few more fly balls and a couple less strikeouts than what he induced against the Angels.

The Twins probably wouldn't care how he gets batters out, as long as he can continue to pump the strike zone and pitch well enough to stop some of the bleeding.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Drew Butera, Scott Diamond
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