Diamond loosens up in more ways than one
Scott Diamond threw nearly 50 pitches in the Twins bullpen Wednesday morning and immediately discovered a side effect of the increase in work.
“He had a smile on his face for a change,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You didn’t see too many smiles on his face, but today he made some strides. He understands what the plan is, the timeline, where we’re at. He’s feeling pretty good. He’s starting to be able to do some things with a baseball.”
That timeline includes another workout or two in the bullpen, then a one- or two-inning debut March 18 against the Marlins. It’s too early to say whether Diamond, who had bone chips removed from his pitching elbow in December, will be ready to come north at the end of the month, but Gardenhire said it doesn’t matter.
“I’m not too worried about it, as long as he’s healthy when we get there,” Gardenhire said of the lefthander, who won 12 games last season. “He’s going to have to get his [number of] pitches up, get to 90-plus pitches. We’ll see how long that takes him.”
Twins prospects Jose Berrios pitched a scoreless inning Wednesday and Eddie Rosario lined a single in three at-bats for Puerto Rico against the Twins, leading Gardenhire to say he was happy for them as they prepare for the World Baseball Classic.
“Good for those kids. I’ll bet they’re having the time of their lives, standing over there with some pretty good players in that dugout,” Gardenhire said of a Puerto Rico roster that includes major league veterans such as Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Alex Rios. “Rosario can do nothing but get hits for us. I told him I was going to kick his butt if he got a hit against us, and he did it anyway.”
True, but Alex Burnett immediately picked off the Class A second-base prospect.
Hicks’ smash hit
Aaron Hicks led off the bottom of the first inning by smashing a fastball over the right-field fence, a home run that plunked a skinny palm tree about halfway up, sending the baseball back onto the field. Hicks followed by drawing a walk, then lining a single to right in the third.
It’s getting difficult for Gardenhire to mask his excitement over the rookie outfielder. “He’s doing great. He’s getting good hits,” the manager said. “I just like him up there — he’s a prototype [leadoff hitter], a switch hitter, not afraid to take pitches, not afraid to take walks. Whether he can handle the leadoff role, I haven’t decided that. First he’s got to make this baseball team — and he’s working his way right towards it.”
Darin Mastroianni took batting practice for the first time in almost a week, and Gardenhire said he plans to put him in the lineup Friday. Another outfielder, Oswaldo Arcia, has yet to play this spring because of a strained intercostal muscle but should play Sunday or Monday.
The Twins split their roster Thursday. Kyle Gibson starts opposite Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee in Clearwater, while Kevin Correia pitches vs. Boston at Hammond Stadium.