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Anxious Twins starter Diamond 'in limbo' while elbow heals

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Scott Diamond sported a natty beard better suited for playoff hockey players than an emerging pitching star, roaming the Twins clubhouse wearing a thick ice pack on his surgically repaired left elbow.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Scott Diamond sported a natty beard better suited for playoff hockey players than an emerging pitching star, roaming the Twins clubhouse wearing a thick ice pack on his surgically repaired left elbow.

The winter scruff, byproduct of a broken razor, was doomed, Diamond said, following a sweaty workout that left him scratching. Maintenance on his elbow, however, will continue throughout spring training as he rebuilds arm strength and battles the clock to be ready by the April 1 season opener.

Diamond's 12 wins in 2012 led a disastrous starting staff, a pleasant surprise for the Twins after the team promoted him from the minors in May to plug one of numerous holes in the rotation. He was the leading candidate to start Opening Day when Minnesota plays host to the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers at Target Field.

Unpleasant was the cracking sound he heard in his elbow lifting weights in December, which revealed bone chips and led to an operation that jeopardizes Diamond's chances to break camp with the Twins.

"It's tough to say right now because the way the arm feels ... I think at this point we're still taking it pretty slow," Diamond said Tuesday. "It's going to be really tight (time-wise) towards Opening Day, but I think a lot of it has to do with how it feels when I get on the mound for the first time.

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"If everything's going well, the mechanics are going smooth, I think that's what's going to project how it's going to be by Opening Day. So right now I think it's really in limbo."

Diamond threw a second straight day from 120 feet Tuesday and plans another such session during today's first official workout before ramping up to 150 feet Friday. He expects to throw off a mound for the first time next week. But the Guelph, Ontario, native is behind in his throwing schedule and will not be able to play for Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

The lefty posted an impressive 3.54 earned-run average in 173 innings as a rookie, striking out 90 against just 31 walks. He is the lone returnee from a rotation that had the highest ERA (5.40) and fewest innings (880) in the American League.

Diamond badly wants the marquee Opening Day assignment. But he might have to remain in Florida to continue building his arm strength for the rigors of a long season. And the Twins, whose injury-plagued rotation ruined the past two years, are unwilling to sacrifice his long-term viability for any short-term gain.

"That's the battle right now mentally because it's something that you dream about, right?" Diamond said. "But it is a long season. If that's what we have to do, (I'll) just bite my tongue."

The Twins repaired their rotation by adding a trio of ex-National League right-handers in Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, veterans of 2,240 major league innings. Worley and Pelfrey are coming back from elbow surgery with the Phillies and Mets, respectively, while Correia is attempting to reboot his career after spending 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, San Diego and San Francisco.

"I think with the guys we brought in it's a little younger," Diamond said. "Couple of guys coming off of injuries, but I think we have something to prove. Just being around the locker room the last couple of weeks, you really see an extra fire. It really feels like something's starting to kick in."

Despite his limited experience, Diamond is the dean of the Twins' rotation. The ace, perhaps, although he was unwilling to assume that title.

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"No, I don't think so. I think that's a role to be established in spring training," he said. "We've all talked. We all consider ourselves equals. That's the best way to go about things. I'm really looking forward to it, and to be a part of it is pretty cool."

As for the beard, Diamond wondered whether he should keep it until his favorite NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won four straight games, lose again. But another day of work under the blazing Florida sun convinced him otherwise.

"I can't do it anymore. It's just irritating the hell out of me," he said. "Today was the first time wearing a hat, too, and I'm like, I can't be focusing in on my damn beard. I'm going home and trimming it immediately."

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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