CHICAGO – Scott Diamond resembled the pitcher who went 12-9 last season on Wednesday, not the one who is 6-11 this year.
By attacking the strike zone early in the count, Diamond was able to induce plenty of ground balls and zip through easy innings. He set the tone for the Twins, who beat the White Sox 4-3 to avoid being swept in the three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.
“It’s taken a long time,” Diamond said. “I’m a little disappointed in that.”
Diamond had bone chips removed from his elbow during the offseason and was a little behind the other pitchers when he reported to spring training. He tried to cram a full throwing program into a smaller window than normal. Eventually he backed off, then wasn’t effective when he took the mound. He was 5-10, and frustrated, when he was sent down Aug. 1. He’s back up for September and, on Wednesday, broke a personal five-game losing streak.
Diamond held the White Sox to three runs over 6⅓ innings on five hits, two walks and no strikeouts. He’s far from a power pitcher, and Wednesday marked the seventh consecutive start in which he’s gotten one or no strikeouts.
“I might have created some bad habits because of [rushing during spring training], but we are slowly getting rid of them,” he said. “It has taken just a little longer than I wanted.”
Diamond entered the seventh having given up only one run, but Jordan Danks hit a two-out, two-run single off him as Chicago pulled within 4-3. Still, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased.
“He attacked the strike zone a lot better and did his job,” Gardenhire said. “That was a huge performance and a confidence booster for him.”
The bullpen took over, with Casey Fien and Jared Burton setting up Glen Perkins for his 36th save.
Hendriks out, De Vries in
After going 1-3 in eight starts with a 6.87 ERA, the Twins have seen enough of Liam Hendriks, at least for now.
Hendriks has officially been lifted from the starting rotation and replaced with righthander Cole De Vries. De Vries, who is from Eden Prairie and played for the Gophers, replaced Hendriks in the first inning Monday and pitched five innings.
It’s been a challenging year for De Vries, who was in the Opening Day starting rotation when he landed on the disabled list because of a forearm strain. He didn’t pitch in a game until late May, then had to work his way up to Class AAA Rochester, where he was 3-4 with a 7.02 ERA. He threw seven shutout innings in his final start for the Red Wings before being called up to the Twins. Now he gets a chance to prove he belongs in consideration for a spot on the 2014 staff.
The Twins still announce crowds of 25,000-plus at games despite the team being on the verge of losing 90-plus games for the third consecutive season. Teams in the playoff race, such as Oakland, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, aren’t drawing many fans.
During a recent 10-game homestand that included games against the Rays and Rangers, Oakland drew only three crowds of more than 20,000 and one of more than 24,000.
Oakland fans usually step up in crunch time, but haven’t yet.
“I know they haven’t drawn great, but it’s been like that for a while,” Gardenhire said. “They are pretty passionate fans. They know more things about my family than I do. When the game is going on, they have some great lines.”
• Twins catcher Joe Mauer, still recovering from a concussion suffered Aug. 19, worked out at home for a third day in a row. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan called it “another good day,” although it is unclear how much work the Twins are having Mauer do at home.
• Twins rookies — all 17, plus one freshman bullpen catcher — were put through the annual hazing after Wednesday’s game. Their clothes were hidden and replaced with crazy outfits, with most of the players boarding the bus to the airport in drag.