Diamond feeling good

SAN ANTONIO, TX - On paper, Thomas Diamond's 2008 campaign has not been particularly pretty. But the right-hander has made significant strides this season, particularly with his breaking ball. Lone Star Dugout chatted with Diamond about his continued progress in his return from last year's Tommy John surgery.

Although most pitchers would consider a 6.20 ERA in mid-August to be disastrous, that is not the case for Thomas Diamond.

The former first round pick, who is making his return from Tommy John surgery, is just happy to be healthy at this point.

Despite his lofty ERA, Diamond has shown signs of becoming a better pitcher than he was pre-surgery. The right-hander has spent much of the season working in the upper-80s to low-90s with his fastball, but his velocity should still climb a notch. Most pitchers gradually regain their fastball velocity and feel for offspeed pitches as they work towards a full recovery.

The most encouraging aspect of Diamond's 2008 season has been the development of his breaking ball. Entering last season, many people questioned whether Diamond could become a Major League starting pitcher because he lacked an effective breaking pitch. That has all changed in a hurry, as the 25-year-old now features an above-average 12-to-6 hammer curveball that he has shown the ability to command fairly well.

The prospect has appeared in 12 games – making 11 starts – with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders this season. In 53.2 innings, he has surrendered 54 hits, walked 37, and struck out 47.

Diamond recently missed three weeks because of bone spurs in his right ankle. He began feeling pain during his start in Arkansas on June 30. In that outing, Diamond's fastball dropped to the 86-88 mph range and he surrendered nine runs in only four innings.

Since returning from the disabled list, Diamond – as he explains below – has felt no pain in his ankle.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the hurler after a recent game in San Antonio.

Jason Cole: How do you feel about your season in Frisco so far?

Thomas Diamond: I'm healthy, so I feel pretty good. My arm feels good and I really feel pretty happy about that.

Cole: How do you feel you have progressed as you've gone on from start-to-start?

Diamond: It's more just mentally knowing I'm alright to go out there and do it. That really surprised me, how fast I've gotten away from, ‘Alright if I throw this, is it going to go again or not?' It's completely gone. I don't even think about it. My mechanics - I'm trying to get my mechanics back like using my legs a little more. Earlier when I first got here, I was using all arm. I'm just starting now to get back to using more of my body and just trusting that it'll be there when I'm ready to go.

Cole: At first, were you a little tentative when throwing – kind of not wanting to go all out?

Diamond: When I first started playing catch, I was. After that, it was in the back of my mind, but it never really came up until somebody was asking me about it. They were like, ‘you know, any time it could go.' But that's for anybody – it's not just for me. Once I fully understood that, I realized that was really what it is. I'm fixed – I'm healthy and I just need to get out there and throw.

Cole: Do you feel any issues with your arm at all right now?

Diamond: No, not at all.

Cole: I want to talk about your curveball for a second. It's quite a bit different than it was before the surgery, isn't it?

Diamond: It's a lot different. Before the surgery it was nonexistent really. I would have it one day and then the next four or five starts, I wouldn't have it. Now I can throw it – it's pretty much the same pitch day in and day out. I know what I can expect from it. It is just another pitch that I can rely on to be there to go along with my fastball from day-to-day.

Cole: How did you do it? Did you change the grip?

Diamond: I have no idea. Dr. Andrews says he put a curveball in there for me so I'm just going to trust him and say it came from him.

Cole: You were recently on the disabled list because of bone spurs in your ankle, is that correct?

Diamond: Ankle – yes.

Cole: How does the ankle feel now?

Diamond: They gave me a cortisone shot, so I feel good. At the end of the season, I'll have ankle surgery just to remove the bone spurs. It will be fine after that.

Cole: Do you feel it at all when you're pitching now?

Diamond: Not now. I rolled it the other day and I felt it for a minute, but that's just normal. Anybody that is going to roll their ankle out there is going to feel something. But nothing lingered after about 10 or 15 seconds.

Cole: How many starts had you been feeling the bone spurs before you went on the disabled list?

Diamond: One. I knew it was there. They were there. We knew about them in the offseason, but they just didn't take them out. They just said to pitch with them and if it starts to bug me, they'll try something when that happens.

Cole: So it was just that start in Arkansas?

Diamond: Yeah.

Cole: What are you looking for out of yourself for the last month of the season?

Diamond: I just want to stay healthy. Stay healthy, get through the rest of this year, get some good innings under my belt, and finish strong.

Cole: What have you been working on with your pitching coach, Terry Clark?

Diamond: Just my mechanics, mainly from the windup. I feel real good from the stretch. I'm engaging my legs from the stretch real well, but out of the windup, up until recently I've been using mostly upper body. Lately we have really been working on getting down the mound and using my legs and my core a little bit more.

Cole: What exactly does that fix when you are using your legs and getting down on the mound?

Diamond: My velocity has been up a little bit since I have been doing that. And it helped my control on the inner-half of the plate a little bit. I was able to go in there and the ball wouldn't run all over the place all me. It has actually helped me with my changeup a little bit too.

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