Diamond, who is battling for the final spot in the rotation with Samuel Deduno, Kyle Gibson and Vance Worley, was mostly solid against Tampa Bay, getting through four scoreless innings before issuing three walks in the fifth, with all three runners coming around to score. He ended up giving up three runs on five hits and three walks with one strikeout over 4 1/3 innings.
Diamond now has a 5.79 ERA this spring, which lags behind Deduno's 2.19 ERA and Gibson's 2.70 ERA, but he said he remained hopeful he was still in the running.
"In terms of what I've been doing, [tonight] was definitely a good sign for me, but whether they see that, I really can't make that decision," Diamond said. "All I can do is control my own fate. Other than that, it's just out of my hands."
Diamond was at fault for giving up the three walks in the fifth, but he wasn't helped by the defense after he exited in favor of left-hander Brian Duensing. The first run scored on a one-out RBI groundout that first baseman Joe Mauer bobbled before getting an out at first, then Oswaldo Arcia dropped a fly ball down the right-field line that was ruled a two-run double.
Diamond gave up few hard hits, as four of the five singles he allowed were on the ground, while the other was a solid line drive from Desmond Jennings in the third inning. So while Diamond's outing was not perfect, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also saw some positives.
"I liked his performance," Gardenhire said. "I thought the ball was moving well. His breaking ball went well. He got his pitch count above 75. So it was a good performance. But he did walk a couple guys at the end, but the ball was coming out of his hand pretty decent."
Diamond, 27, is still trying to prove he is more like the pitcher who posted a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts as a rookie than the one who had a 5.43 ERA in 24 starts last season. He is yet to have a scoreless outing this spring and got just two swings and misses Thursday, but he expressed a belief that his start was a step in the right direction.
"Overall, I can't say I'm too disappointed with it," Diamond said. "I got a lot of ground balls and worked the inside corner really well. I got ahead of a lot of guys, and when I didn't I was able to battle back in. Other than the fifth inning, and if a few balls went our way it might've been different, I'm pretty happy with it."
But Diamond may still find himself on the outside looking in, as Deduno remains the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation, while Gibson has also been solid this spring.
Because Diamond is out of Minor League options, there remains a chance the Twins could decide to move him to the bullpen rather than expose him to waivers if he does not make the rotation. But Diamond said he would be fine with whatever the Twins ask of him, even though he has not pitched in relief at any level since 2008, when he made two relief appearances in his first year in the Minors.
"I'm willing to do whatever," Diamond said. "I've never really come out of the bullpen during the season. I think [Anthony] Swarzak is a guy who has made that adjustment and did really well with it. If I was asked to do that, he's a guy I'd approach and ask about it. So I'd have no problem doing it if they need a left-handed guy to come out and get innings."
Diamond added that he would like to remain with the Twins but that is ultimately out of his hands if the club decides to move in a different direction.
"Ultimately, I want to stay here," Diamond said. "I love these guys and love playing in this organization. But if they don't see it that way, I want to pitch in the Major Leagues. I'm a Major League pitcher. I'm not a Minor League pitcher. So whether the Twins think I am, it's up to them to decide. But I'd like to pitch in the big leagues."