Scott Diamond looks like he is here for good

Twins staring pitcher Scott Diamond

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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While the Twins were beating up on the Cubs on Saturday, Scott Diamond supplied more evidence that he's here to stay.

Diamond pitched six shutout innings Saturday to improve to 5-1 and drop his ERA from 1.86 to 1.61. He probably would have stayed in the game longer but he had to sit through two long innings when the Twins blew the game open. He also was hit harder later on.

Diamond scattered seven hits and didn't walk a batter. Reed Johnson doubled to start the game and moved to third on a grounder. That's as far as a Cubs player got against Diamond, who left two runners on base in the third and sixth innings.

"The game plan was to keep using my fastball,'' Diamond said. " So Joe and I discussed it before the game, and we just wanted to keep attacking inside and go from there and it seemed to play out pretty well."

Diamond has not given up an earned run in his past 13 innings.

"He's commanding the strike zone more than anything else,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "With all his pitches."

After getting a taste of the majors last season, Diamond has taken his pitching to another level. It couldn't have come at a better time for the Twins, who need their starters to pitch deeper into games.

"His mechanics are solid,'' Gardenhire said. "He's not getting out of whack. His arm slot is about the same. His pitches are going down. He's locating his fastball so much better now.

"It just the maturation process here as a pitcher and learning and figuring out a bit more."

Diamond has showed poise and composure. With two on in the third inning, Cubs infielder Starlin Castro twice stepped out of the batter's box while Diamond began his delivery. Boos rained down on Castro from fans after the second time. Diamond remained focused and eventually stuck him out.

"I was getting a little frustrated,'' said Diamond, who was worried about a baserunner at second at the time, "but that's the way the game goes."

Plouffe, 3B

The latest Trevor Plouffe Project has him at third base. He's looking smooth there -- and at the plate.

Plouffe was 2-for-4 on Saturday with a home run and four RBI, adding some muscle to the bottom of the order. Plouffe has 26 hits, but 15 of them are for extra bases. He's batting .208 with nine homers and 17 RBI.

There's something in his bat, and the Twins want to see more of it.

"We talked about how he needs to produce in those situations, and he's doing it," Gardenhire said. "He and I have had some good conversations. He wants to be out there. He wants to play. The ball just jumps off his bat. We need him. We need him down in the lineup."

Etc.

Denard Span (flu) and Joe Mauer (thumb) both returned to the lineup Saturday, combining for five hits.

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