At the end of the day, lefty Scott Diamond needs the Tampa Bay Rays more than they need him. When you’re unsigned as spring training nears its conclusion, it is a godsend to have a team come and offer you a contract. That being said, the Rays have never needed a pitcher like Diamond so badly at any point since in the last seven years. Signing a pitcher like Diamond became a must, and he is especially lucky that the Rays were the team that came calling.
Scott Diamond is several rungs down on the Tampa Bay Rays’ depth chart. As of right now, they have no intention of using him in the major leagues except in case of emergency. Even so, he will be quite an important pitcher in their system, specifically for their Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls.
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It looks like Nate Karns and Matt Andriese will begin 2015 in the Rays’ rotation, putting quite a strain on the Bulls. If Mike Montgomery makes the team, that would make matters even worse. Burch Smith and Dylan Floro will anchor the staff, but there are severe question marks after that. Enny Romero has a back injury while Merrill Kelly left the organization to go to Korea. Everett Teaford will be on the team, but 2014 in Korea marked his first year as a full-time starter since 2009.
Mikey O’Brien is also lined up to be on the Bulls’ roster, but he is another swingman type that the Rays didn’t even invite to big league camp. Grayson Garvin is more interesting as an advanced pitching prospect who’s on the 40-man roster, but he pitched just 74 innings at Double-A Montgomery last year. In addition, should the Rays really promote him when he may have to be sent back down to Double-A once the big league starters get healthy?
Given Durham’s current state of flux, having a pitcher like Scott Diamond will be valuable. He will eat innings and he will hopefully have something to teach the Bulls’ other pitchers. He has 58 major league starts to his credit while the other starters set to begin the year with the team have 56 MLB games–including relief appearances–€“between them.
You have to go back to Ramon Ortiz in 2010 for the last time Durham had a starter who delivered as good of a season as Diamond’s 2012 in the major leagues. He topped 200 innings that year between Triple-A and the majors, and he posted a 12-9 record and a 3.54 ERA in his 173 innings for the Minnesota Twins. His career since then has been a different story, but Diamond can also have faith that the Rays will get him back on track.
Diamond’s ability to sustain success in the major leagues was always a question because he struck so few batters out. He struck out just 4.8 batters per 9 innings even in 2012 as he was extremely reliant on control (1.6 BB/9) and forcing groundballs (53.4% groundball rate). His fastball averaged under 90 MPH yet he still threw it nearly 60% of the time.
Scott Diamond isn’t just a one-pitch pitcher–€“his curveball is actually a solid offering that flashes plus. His major issue, though, is that his third pitch, a changeup, has never gotten up to par. It is just 5.5 MPH slower than his fastball and he doesn’t throw it at all versus lefty (same-side) batters. That has led Diamond to a reverse split in his career. Part of the reason he didn’t sign sooner is that teams didn’t see a lefty specialist role as a fallback for him.
Of course, changeups are the Rays’ specialty and Diamond will hope to reap the benefits of that. The dream is that they can help him develop a pitch that he can use against batters of both sides and help him strike a few more batters out. Diamond is still only 28 years old, and he has time to reinvent himself. The Rays didn’t sign Diamond because they believe they can turn his career around, but they just might do so anyway.
Scott Diamond and the Rays are looking for different things in 2015. Diamond is angling for an improved changeup and another big league chance while the Rays are only asking for some starting depth. Luckily for everyone, their goals are far from mutually exclusive. Both sides expect a productive season for Diamond in a Durham Bulls uniform in 2015.