Diamond happy to be back

TULSA - Lone Star Dugout was on hand Wednesday night for Thomas Diamond's first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery about 14 months ago. After the game, we spoke with Diamond about his game and being back on the mound.

Thomas Diamond made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery on Wednesday evening. The former first round pick threw 87 pitches in 4.2 innings, giving up six runs. He allowed four hits, walked four and struck out five.

Diamond especially struggled in the first inning when he surrendered three runs on two hits and two walks. He had trouble locating his fastball, which sat in the 89-91 mph range throughout the game. The hurler's outing got off to a particularly rocky start when he walked two of the game's first three hitters, both on four pitches.

"It was just good to be back out there," said Diamond of his start. "I was a little jumpy in the first inning, I'm not going to lie. People say I'm never nervous and this or that, but not being out there and pitching in a legitimate game since September of '06, I had some nerves."

Diamond settled in during the second, third and fourth frames, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced. Diamond says he settled down quite a bit as the game progressed.

"I went into the dugout [after the first inning] and thought that it can't get much worse," replied Diamond. "I really didn't do anything right. I wanted to go out and throw strikes and let them beat me by getting hits, not by me putting them on."

Diamond went under the knife on March 20, 2007, and Wednesday night was the first time he had been with a team since the end of the 2006 season. The right-hander is just happy to be done with the grueling rehab process.

"It was probably the most trying time of my life," said Diamond when asked about his rehab. "Sitting down in Arizona for 14 months just knowing I wasn't part of a team. I was kind of out there on my own doing rehab. I've never been away from a team.

"It was driving me crazy at first, then I was like ‘you know, this is something I can grow from and it can help me become a better pitcher and a better person'. It has helped me out and it's just great to be back on a team with these guys."

Diamond says the rehab was long and repetitious.

"I didn't play for four months," he said. "I had surgery March 20th in '07. Those four months, I didn't throw. I just did the same thing every day. It was very monotonous. Then June 20th, for the next four months, I played catch and got into bullpens after that."

Although Diamond has always thrown two above-average pitches in his fastball and changeup, he has had trouble finding a consistent breaking ball. The righty has worked with both a slider and a curveball in the past, but he has decided to stick with just the curveball.

"I threw a slider and a curveball [in college], then when I got into pro ball, I still threw both but they started kind of looking the same," Diamond said. "When I do throw curveballs that are pretty good, it's a pretty good pitch. My slider wasn't a true slider, so I kind of got away from it at the end of '05, maybe early '06."

The curveball Diamond is currently throwing is similar to the one he threw at the University of New Orleans, but he wants to throw it a little harder.

"I'm throwing [the curve] a little bit harder, trying to make it more of a power curveball," he said. "I threw one, maybe two tonight that were like that. It's something to build on."

Diamond recorded two of his five strikeouts by dropping a big-breaking 12-to-6 curveball into the strike zone.

Overall, Diamond was satisfied with his offspeed stuff on Wednesday, but he is just looking to get some innings under his belt before he begins focusing in on his curveball.

"Changeup was pretty good," said the 25-year-old. "I was happy I was throwing it for strikes. Last time out in Arizona, I wasn't really throwing it for strikes. The curveball is just a work-in-progress. I threw a couple good ones tonight and a couple that kind of got away from me a little bit.

"I'm really out here trying to work on fastball and changeup and the curveball is kind of a third pitch."

The New Orleans native may have just made his official debut for this season, but he had been pitching in extended spring training games for nearly two months. Diamond says his pitch count got up to 85, which is about where it was on Wednesday.

"It was more them trying to make sure I don't get too many innings this year," said Diamond when asked about his pitch count. "I understand. It's going to be tough because I just want to stay out there as long as I can."

Diamond isn't sure if the Rangers are planning on promoting him from Frisco this season, but he does have a good idea of what he wants to do for the rest of the year.

"I'd like to pitch a lot better than I did in two innings tonight," Diamond joked. "I'd like to get back to throwing like I did for the second, third, and fourth inning today. Just to be confident in my fastball, challenge hitters, and work my offspeed pitches off that.

"Hopefully in September I'll have low enough innings that they'll give me a chance to make a few starts in the big leagues."

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