Twins acquire Guelph lefty

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — In 2007, lefty Scott Diamond wasn’t selected in the June draft.

No problem for the lefty who earned the nickname Baby Face while with Danny Thompson’s Team Ontario.

Diamond left Binghamton University and went off to Virginia to the Coastal Plain League, a summer college loop, to pitch for the Martinsville Mustangs.

Spotted by an Atlanta Braves scout, the Guelph lefty was signed and instead of returning to university was off to Florida and spring training.

A fast climber, the Guelph lefty was claimed by the Minnesota Twins on Thursday in the Rule 5 draft and will be in camp with the American League Central Division champs in three months at Fort Myers.

By claiming Diamond for $50,000, the Twins can keep him on the roster — they must keep him for the whole 2011 season— or return him to the Braves. George Bell, Kelly Gruber and Willie Upshaw came to the Blue Jays the same way.

Diamond, 24, was one of three arms Minnesota was looking at, according to Mike Radcliff, the Twins vice-president of player personnel.

He was 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA this season in 27 starts, splitting duties between double-A Mississippi and triple-A Gwinnett County. In 1582/3 innings, he walked 54 and struck out 123. He gave up six homers and has given up 19 in three minor league seasons.

“He’s a good fit because A) he’s pitched at a high level, B) he’s left-handed and C) he’s a good fit on statistically lots of ground balls and not many home runs,” Radcliff said. “He’s always been a starter, but we have a vacancy in the bullpen.”

The Twins’ last Rule 5 pick had some success: Former Cy Young award winner Johan Santana was claimed from the Houston Astros.

“When we took Santana out of the class-A Midwest League in 1999 we were not a good team (63-97),” Radcliff said. “We’re better now. When you aren’t contending you can stash players ... now we’re trying to win.

“We have holes. (Diamond) is a four-pitch guy and he’ll get a chance.”

Diamond’s fastball sits in the 86 to 91 m.p.h. range and he has a curve that is above-average.

The Twins had amateur reports on Diamond dating back his days with the Terriers, filed by the late Jim Ridley, and from Binghamton as well.

Diamond first faced big-league hitters in 2009 for Team Canada in the final tune-up before the World Baseball Classic at Legends Field.

He was warming up in the bullpen when he heard the Yanks lineup announced before 7,524 fans: Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady ...

“I was thinking this is going to be a little bit of an adventure,” Diamond said that day.

Diamond, tutored by Mel Melehes at Frozen Ropes in Guelph, threw two scoreless innings, striking out two in Canada’s 6-0 victory over the Yanks.

He got Cabrera to bounce to short and then walked Swisher.

Teixeira, an $80-million US man, took a low strike on the outside corner for strike three.

Matsui flew out to centre to end the first.

Nady bounced out, Diamond issued a walk to Cody Ransom. Angel Berroa struck out and Ramon Pena bounced to third.

Diamond’s day was done.

Two hitless, innings.

Two zeros on the board.

Afterwords Diamond said he had texted ex-coach Thompson, a Yanks fan, the result.

“My friends phoned from Binghamton — Yankee fans. They told me the names I could be facing, I was cringing and Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez weren’t there,” Diamond said. Jeter was in Toronto with Team USA while Rodriguez had a damaged labrum on his hip.


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