If it wasn't obvious before his latest poor performance, it certainly seems obvious now that Scott Diamond is in line for a demotion from the Minnesota Twins rotation. Since pitching well in his first five starts back in April and May, the lefty has gone 2-7 with a 6.65 ERA, 1.73 WHIP and 28/24 K/BB ratio in his past 13 turns.
It would be one thing if he were showing signs of improvement, but that's not the case. In his last three outings, Diamond has surrendered 16 hits, 10 walks, 11 earned runs and four homers while recording just two strikeouts. He has allowed more than twice as many fly balls as grounders in that time. I wrote back in late May that Diamond was getting away from the things that had made him successful last season, and recently that has been more blatantly true than ever.
On Sunday, after watching Diamond get shelled for six runs in 4 2/3 innings, the soft-spoken and non-provocative Tom Kelly opined while filling in as commentator on FSN's broadcast that the time has probably come for a change. It was clear to him -- as it has been to many of us -- that Diamond doesn't presently belong in a major-league rotation.
In the wake of his latest disastrous outing, the lefty was mystified that his great work in the bullpen isn't translating over to games. I've seen some variation of that quote from a Twins' starter far too often this season; it conveys a sense of hopelessness, and convinces me more than ever that Diamond needs a break to get things figured out. At this point, the Twins surely must agree, though they appear content to give him at least one more chance.
If a move should come in the near future, who are the candidates to replace him? With Pedro Hernandez and Cole De Vries on the shelf, let's take a look at the available arms on hand in Class-AAA Rochester:
Vance Worley, RHP
AAA Stats: 9 GS, 58 IP, 3.88 ERA, 34/17 K/BB, 1.41 WHIP
Minnesota's Opening Day starter was demoted back in late May with a 7.21 ERA and an obscene .381 opponents' batting average. His performance in Triple-A has looked far better on the surface, but at a deeper glance it's pretty tough to get excited about his improvements. Even against the lesser competition, Worley has still been unable to strike people out (5.3 K/9) while allowing too many hits (65 in 58 innings). He was placed on the 7-day disabled list last week with shoulder inflammation, but he'll be eligible to return tomorrow, so his availability depends on the severity of the injury. Even if he returns soon, the Twins will likely want to see him prove that he's healthy and effective before a recall is considered.
Andrew Albers, LHP
AAA Stats: 20 GS, 115.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 105/29 K/BB, 1.26 WHIP
Albers has been the standout performer on Rochester's staff, consistently turning in strong outings while posting a respectable K-rate (8.2 K/9) and controlling the running game (three stolen bases attempted in 20 starts). As a 27-year-old who was pitching as a reliever in an independent league three years ago, Albers is hardly a conventional prospect, but based on merit he is beyond deserving of a look in the majors. The stumbling block: he still needs to be added to the 40-man roster.
P.J. Walters, RHP
AAA Stats: 11 GS, 61.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 53/21 K/BB, 1.44 WHIP
Walters was called up to fill in back in late May and quickly unraveled after a couple good starts, leading to his second designation for assignment in two years. It's plain to see that he doesn't have the stuff to pitch in the majors, as illustrated by a 5.79 ERA in 101 innings with the Twins over the past two seasons, so although he chose to stay in the organization after his latest demotion, you have to figure that he's exhausted his opportunities in Minnesota.
AAA Stats: 11 GS, 65 IP, 5.12 ERA, 39/12 K/BB, 1.49 WHIP
The forgotten man. Hendriks made the Twins' rotation out of spring training but was bumped after two starts (a shockingly short leash, considering how long guys like Worley and Diamond have been allowed to flap in the wind). While in Rochester, he missed about a month due to injury and hasn't pitched very well, although his control has remained very good and prior to his last clunker he had rattled off four straight quality starts. Hendriks has looked hittable everywhere this year, but he's still only 24 and might have a better shot at making a future impact in the Twins rotation than anyone else listed here (save for Worley, who is presently unavailable).
AAA Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 10.80 ERA, 0/0 K/BB, 2.00 WHIP
I can already hear the cringing. Twins fans tend to have a visceral reaction to Blackburn, who is currently earning $5.5 million in the last year of an ill-advised contract extension, but there's a good chance we'll be seeing him in Minnesota before season's end. After undergoing his third arm surgery in as many years in the spring, Blackburn missed the first half but is now on the rehab trail and nearing a potential return. After achieving decent results (3.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) in five starts between the rookie-level GCL and Double-A, he was promoted to Rochester this week and made his debut on Tuesday night. An absolutely terrible outing didn't help his cause, but he's got plenty of time to convince the club that he deserves one more look.