Slider still in early stages for Diamond

FRISCO, Texas - Since returning to the Texas League, big reliever Thomas Diamond has been difficult to hit and he's striking out plenty of batters. However, he is also issuing more than a walk per inning. Lone Star Dugout chatted with the 26-year-old about his season and the development of his new slider.

Former first-round pick Thomas Diamond had last season's return from Tommy John surgery cut short due to bone spurs in his ankle.

Diamond was a starting pitcher upon return in '08, but the Rangers chose to move him to the bullpen for the 2009 season. Diamond himself is not sure if the move is permanent.

Because Diamond is already on the club's 40-man roster, he knows that if he pitches well enough, he could get a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues before the season was over.

Moving to the bullpen wasn't Diamond's only change this year. Over the offseason, the Rangers replaced the 26-year-old's big 12-to-6 curveball with a slider. Diamond's curve had showed promise last season, but the Rangers felt his style and repertoire was better suited for a slider.

Diamond is having somewhat of an up-and-down season thus far. He began the year in Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he posted a 1-0 record with a 6.55 ERA in 11 innings. After a short stint on the disabled list, the right-hander went back to Double-A Frisco.

Since returning to Frisco, Diamond has been difficult to hit (.217 BAA), and he has struck out 17 hitters in 13.1 innings. However, the big hurler has issued more than a walk per inning, giving out 14 free passes.

Diamond answered some questions for us after a recent Frisco RoughRiders game.

Jason Cole: You had your first game since coming off the disabled list on May 12, and it was a bit of a busy outing. You struck out five in 1.2 innings, walked three, and gave up three hits. Were you just shaking off some rust?

Thomas Diamond: Yeah, not pitching in two weeks. That's what it was. I was on the DL for about ten days, eleven days. Something like that. The first day in Midland, they were like ‘alright, we're going to need you today to pitch a little bit.' I said it was no problem, just put me in there and see what I've got.

Cole: What exactly landed you on the disabled list?

Diamond: I had a shoulder impingement. They said it was probably just a little shoulder inflammation from me going from being a starter to a reliever. My arm wasn't used to getting up fast and having to get into the game within a batter or two. Doing that kind of got my shoulder a little inflamed. Once I got past that, they said it should be fine.

Cole: You threw a big-breaking curveball last season, but now you've got a slider. When did you make the change and whose idea was it?

Diamond: It was actually this Christmas at the camp we had down in Arlington. It was a collective agreement between Scott Servais, Mike Maddux, all the pitching coaches, and myself. We just sat down around the table and asked which one I had the most confidence in and which one they felt it would benefit me to throw. We talked about it and we decided that just throwing the slider would be a lot better for me, all of us thought.

Cole: With Maddux coming in this year, you, Brandon McCarthy, and Beau Jones have all scrapped their curveballs for sliders. Is it a preferential thing for the organization now?

Diamond: I think it's more of which pitch they think will help a particular guy. If they think a split might help somebody, they might mention that. If they think a curveball would have helped me, they would've said stick with your curveball. But it was just the way I pitch. I like to come right at people, so something a little bit harder is probably a little better for me.

Cole: Do you ever throw your curveball now?

Diamond: No.

Cole: Were you wanting to keep your curveball around as a fourth pitch?

Diamond: Not really. Right now, it's kind of weird because I get in between every once in awhile. I'll throw a slider that has a little curveball spin to it just because I'm so used to throwing curveballs. I really have to focus on making sure my hand doesn't get over the top of the ball, like it was on my curveball. I've got to stay behind it like a fastball and just right at the end, pull down to the side.

Cole: You've thrown a slider in the past, haven't you?

Diamond: I threw one in college a little bit. But I mainly was just fastball-changeup and every once in awhile I'd throw a breaking ball.

Cole: Is your current slider much different from the one you used in college?

Diamond: Not right now. Basically I haven't thrown it in awhile. It's like it was in college, which is good, because it was a decent pitch for me. But I'm hoping to get it a little better, and have it a little sharper and faster.

Cole: How do you feel about the slider right now?

Diamond: It's coming. It's in the early stages still. It's a little slow right now. I wish I threw it a little bit harder, but that's all going to come with me getting away from that curveball grip and that curveball feel. Just get up there and let it go like I do the fastball.

Cole: Being a reliever now, you obviously won't be throwing that many pitches when you're out there. Do you try and throw the slider as many times as possible to develop it?

Diamond: I'm throwing to get them out. Whatever pitch I think that guy's not going to get a base hit on is what I'm going to throw, whether it's fastball in or away, changeup down, or sliders. Whatever I feel is my best pitch at that moment is what I'm going to bring to the table.

Cole: You've said that you aren't sure if the move to the bullpen is permanent. What do you think of coming out of the ‘pen?

Diamond: It's fine. I did that in college too a little bit. It's one of those deals where everybody wants the ball as much as they can. To get it every five days is great. As long as I'm helping the team win. If they feel like I can help out more pitching every two or three days, that's fine too.

Cole: The changeup has always been a good pitch for you. Are you throwing it just as often out of the bullpen as you were when starting?

Diamond: I try to throw it. I was starting to lose the feel out there. I only threw one today. It just didn't feel right. I used to never get those days when I started. I could always go to my changeup when I needed an offspeed pitch. We were talking about ways for me to make sure I had the feel for that every day. Just to play catch with it. I'm going to start that up tomorrow, and that way I don't lose that pitch because that's a good pitch for me.

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