One of the best story lines for the Twins in 2012 has been the emergence of Scott Diamond as a stabilizing force in the starting rotation. In a season where the Twins have used 12 different starting pitchers, Diamond leads the way with 24 starts under his belt. During the first half of the season, it looked like Diamond could make the All-Star team because of his performance after being called up by the Twins. It has been a different story for Diamond in the last couple months as his performance has gradually declined to the point where his rotation spot might need to be called into question. A couple of weeks ago, this idea would be out of the question but recent starts from Diamond have showcased a mediocre pitcher with opposing teams hitting the ball all over the field against him.
So the question to the front office of the Twins is, should Scott Diamond be shut down?
Let's backtrack a few weeks to see how Diamond got to this point in the year. In the second half of August, Diamond put together a start against the Seattle Mariners that Twins fans had become accustom to seeing from him over the course of the year. He tossed 6.2 innings by surrendering two runs on nine hits and he got the no-decision as the Twins went on to lose the game by a run. His ERA dropped to 2.95 and things continued to look good for the left-handed hurler. The next outing for him would come against the Texas Rangers and this is when it seems like the season switched directions for Diamond.
After Joe Mauer had been hit with a pitch in a previous inning, Diamond tried to stand-up for the Twins star catcher by throwing at Josh Hamilton of the Rangers. The pitch from Diamond got close to Hamilton but it was near the head of the slugger from Texas. Home plate umpire Wally Bell didn't like the pitch location from Diamond so he tossed him out of the game for throwing near the head of an opposing player. It was the shortest outing of the season for Diamond and it was the first time all year where he failed to pitch more than five innings. The Commissioner's Office would suspend Diamond for six games and things just haven't been the same since this point.
He has made four starts since the infamous attempted bean ball near the head of Hamilton and it seems like something is missing from Diamond. In three of the four outings, he has been handed the loss and his performances haven't been up to the level fans were use to seeing from him. He has given up four or more runs in each appearance and he hasn't been able to pitch more than six frames in three of the four outings. The only win for Diamond during this stretch was when the offense exploded for 18 runs against the White Sox on September 4th. His last start on Sunday might have been his worst of the year as he gave up six earned runs on seven hits including two long balls. There just doesn't seem to be something right with Mr. Diamond.
At this point in the season, there are plenty of players dealing with the aches and pains that accompany a grueling 162 game schedule. Diamond is in his first full season with the Twins and he is entering uncharted territory for his professional career. He started the year by throwing 34.2 innings with the Rochester Red Wings before poor play and injuries forced the Twins to turn to the minor leagues. If you combine his minor league innings with his MLB total, he has thrown 188.1 innings in 2012. The career high in innings for Diamond before this season was 162, a mark he reached in 2011 as a member of the Twins and Red Wings. By crossing this innings threshold, Diamond might have run into some fatigue issues and other problems with his arm mechanics.
The Twins have been eliminated from playoff contention and one could argue that the team was never really in contention this year after their poor start to the season. Diamond's continued presence in the rotation is not entirely necessary over the last couple weeks of the year. He could be quietly shutdown and the team could continue to let other arms get the chance to showcase themselves against some of the tough opponents on the schedule for the rest of the month. It's terrible to think about Diamond suffering an arm injury in a meaningless September game when the club could use him in more meaningful games at the start of next season.
Diamond hasn't exactly been helping the club to win in recent weeks and it's tough to know what the team wants to do with him for the rest of the year. It doesn't seem like he will be shutdown before his next start and I am sure the team would like to see how many inning he can pitch by the end of the campaign. The competitor inside of Diamond will want to go out on the mound for every opportunity he is given in the next couple weeks. It's just tough to watch him struggle at the end of what has been a breakout season for the 26-year old left-handed pitcher. The fans that are still watching are going to remember the struggles at the end of the year and not the positive signs from the majority of the season. It will also be tough for Diamond to enter the offseason on a sour note.
In the next couple weeks, Diamond will most likely get to play out the rest of his 2012 season. He could rediscover himself from earlier this year or the performances could continue to go in the opposite direction. The innings are piling up and it's tough not to wonder if Diamond should be on the shelf for the remainder of the campaign.