TORONTO - The Twins on Wednesday will play their final game of 2012. While many will be looking forward to the end of what turned out to be a losing season, Scott Diamond will savor every moment on the mound.
"It's kind of like a fantasy ending," Diamond said.
Diamond was born in Guelph, Ontario, which is less than an hour's drive from Toronto, and there will be a large contingent of Diamond supporters at Rogers Centre on Wednesday when he runs out to the, er, diamond.
"I guess the baseball community [in Guelph] has gotten wind of it," Diamond said. "It's going to be interesting. I think it will be the first time I've gotten to throw in front of them."
He grew up rooting for the Blue Jays. He first followed John Olerud when he was a position player as a youth, then followed pitchers Al Leiter, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter. His father followed Paul Molitor, so Diamond enjoyed meeting Molitor once he joined the Twins before last season.
That's another reason why Wednesday's start is so meaningful. After struggling in his first year with the Twins organization, Diamond returned for 2012 stronger, wiser and with a better breaking ball. When starters began taking trips to the disabled list, he was called up from Class AAA Rochester and thrived. He is 12-8 with a 3.54 ERA and considered the team's only lock for the 2013 rotation.
"He's done everything, probably above and beyond, what we have expected," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "Hopefully he will finish it off on a positive note in his home area."
Diamond has taken a couple of back roads on his way to the majors. He was 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds coming out of high school and wasn't a prospect.
He grew during the summer and picked up velocity on his fastball. He headed to Binghamton University in New York, where he went 14-15 with a 4.30 ERA in three seasons. He also pursued a degree in major systems and manufacturing engineering because he wasn't sure where his baseball career was headed.
Diamond went undrafted following his junior year, but the Atlanta Braves came calling after watching him in a summer league. Instead of returning to school, he took a chance and signed.
"The worst part of it was, when I signed the contract, it was two days before I was to report back for my senior year," he said. "I felt incredibly guilty because I was leaving my college team hanging and I was leaving a lot of friends there to take that jump."
He joined an organization loaded with pitching prospects. He was left off Atlanta's 40-man roster after the 2010 season, and the Twins selected him in the Rule 5 draft that December. He didn't pitch well enough to make the team in spring training, but the Twins liked him enough to send reliever Billy Bullock to the Braves in order to keep him.
Diamond took his lumps in 2011, going 5-19 between Class AAA Rochester and the Twins, but he took plenty of mental notes.
He was called up to start on May 8 this season and shut out the Angels for seven innings. He won his first three starts, and by July 1 he was 7-3 with 2.62 ERA.
"He's disciplined and he has a routine and is well prepared in what he does," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "Plus he's had some success, and it has just snowballed. Now he knows he can have success, that's his big thing."
And Wednesday, in front of a contingent of supporters, Diamond will cap his breakout year.
"I feel like I've come full circle," he said. "I finish my first full year in the big leagues, and what better place to finish it off than in Toronto. It's pretty cool."