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Tampa Bay left fielder Sean Rodriguez dived safely back to first base in the sixth inning Thursday.

Will Vragovic • McClatchy News Service,

tampa bay 5, twins 4

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Rays 5, Twins 4: Diamond becomes latest rotation contender to flame out

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • March 21, 2014 - 12:39 AM

– Under last-chance pressure, Scott Diamond avoided one stumble after another Thursday. But he couldn’t stick the landing.

Diamond, the last of four starting-rotation candidates given a chance to sway Twins’ decisionmakers this week, allowed a baserunner or two in each of the first four innings but each time escaped unscathed. But with his pitch-count limit looming in the fifth, Diamond walked the bases full, then watched from the dugout as each runner scored. Tampa Bay beat the Twins for the fourth time this spring, 5-4 at Charlotte Sports Park, and in doing so may have relegated Diamond to the bullpen, Class AAA, or even another organization.

“In terms of what I’ve been doing, it’s definitely a good sign for me. Whether they see that, I really can’t make that decision,” said Diamond, who is out of options, meaning he could be claimed by another team if the Twins try to send him to Class AAA Rochester. “Ultimately, I want to stay here. I love these guys, I love playing with this organization, but if they don’t see it that way, I want to pitch in the major leagues. I’m a major league pitcher, I’m not a minor league pitcher.”

Facing the same Rays lineup that knocked Vance Worley out of the fifth-starter competition on Tuesday, Diamond looked determined for four innings, keeping the ball on the ground — only two of the 16 hitters to put the ball in play hit fly balls — and shrugging off five hits, all singles. But the Canadian lefthander lost his command of the plate in the fifth inning, walking Ryan Hanigan, Desmond Jennings and James Loney before reaching his 75-pitch limit with one out. All three scored on a groundout and Evan Longoria’s double into the right-field corner that Oswaldo Arcia couldn’t come down with.

“Honestly, he made some pretty good pitches in that inning, and didn’t get calls on strikes that were close,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “So it wasn’t like he was misfiring all over the place. I liked his performance.”

Diamond’s spring ERA rose to 5.79 with the three-run inning.

Aaron Hicks, fighting for the center field job, went 4-for-4 with a double and three singles to raise his spring average to .375.

© 2014 Star Tribune