Diamond races to be ready for opener

The lefthander is stepping up his rehab from elbow surgery, but the team won't rush him back onto the mound.

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Scott Diamond, shown speaking to a fan after signing an autograph at TwinsFest, has received his doctor’s assurance that his elbow, after having bone chips removed, is ready to take on more work.

Photo: Hannah Foslien, Associated Press

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FORT MYERS, FLA. - Many Twins pitchers and catchers are already in town in advance of Tuesday's reporting date, and many have been working out on sun-splashed fields at the Lee County Sports Complex.

Well, not that many worked out Sunday, to be honest. It's one of the last days of freedom before the seven-week progression to Opening Day begins.

But lefthander Scott Diamond got his work in Sunday because he's on a tight schedule.

Diamond is pushing to be ready by Opening Day after his offseason was derailed in December, when he needed surgery to remove a bone chip from his left elbow. The surgery was performed Dec. 18 in New York by Dr. David Altchek, and Diamond might not be ready to break camp with the rest of the team for the April 1 opener at Target Field.

That's not sitting well with Diamond, a lefthander who was a revelation last season when he went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA.

"Normally I'm 100 percent [at this point]," Diamond said. "Obviously I'm not there right now. I'd say that where I am is like early- to mid-January so I'm not that far behind.

"If I have a little inflammation now and then, it is not a big deal. Like Dr. Altchek said, everything is structurally sound, and I'm actually excited to push a little bit and see how we do."

Diamond said he was working out when he felt a crack in his elbow, and a MRI confirmed the injury. The surgery pushed back his throwing schedule and knocked him out of the upcoming World Baseball Classic, where he was expected to pitch for Team Canada. The Twins announced at the time that he would be ready for the start of spring training, but that is now up in the air.

The Twins want to be cautious, which is understandable. There's been a procession of pitchers to the trainer's room in recent years, and they don't want to risk anything with Diamond.

"Normally you'd like to see pitchers work their way up to 85, 90 pitches [by the end of camp]," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He's doing his throwing program, but if he's only going to be throwing 45 pitches or so, you will have to keep him down in Florida and give him more innings. We're not going to push it."

Diamond, understandably, is ready to push as hard as he can after receiving assurances from Altchek that his arm is fine. He's the most accomplished returning starter and has a shot to start on Opening Day.

After being part of a 66-96 team last season, Diamond also wants to help the team start strong in April. His adrenaline really started pumping after meeting newly acquired pitchers Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia.

"That's another reason I want to rush back, [after] talking to these guys," Diamond said. "Everyone coming to spring training knows we have something to prove. Just being here the last couple of days, talking to Worley and Pelfrey. Both guys are working their butts off and I love it. It's going to be fun working with them. So that is kind of why I want to get back into and push the bar a little bit, because I see them wanting to."

Diamond acknowledged that "it's going to be close," and that the team might feel differently. Anderson knows he might have to drag Diamond off the mound a couple times during camp.

"I told him, 'I know you are frustrated that you can't throw and get yourself ready," Anderson said, ''but it is a marathon, not a sprint.'"

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