Thomas Diamond hadn't been this nervous for a start since he began his professional career in 2004. It was understandable, considering the former first-round Draft pick was pitching for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Diamond pitched into the fifth inning Wednesday in his first action in 14 months as the Frisco RoughRiders outslugged the Tulsa Drillers, 13-9, at Drillers Stadium.
"Just to be back and feel good, it's one of the things I'll remember forever," he said. "Of all the things I've been through, being drafted and my first pro game, this was unbelievable. How I feel now, I'll never take for granted another pitch ever again."
The 25-year-old right-hander surrendered six runs on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Much of the damage was done in the first, when he was charged with three runs on two hits.
"The anticipation was killing me and it made me rush the ball to the plate a little bit," Diamond explained. "I was real anxious to start the game."
Diamond threw only 11 of 25 pitches for strikes in the opening frame, walking two of the first three batters before Matt Miller lined an RBI single to right field. Tony Blanco hit a run-scoring double and Jeff Kindel lifted a sacrifice fly. But he regrouped after that.
"In the dugout, I said to myself, 'You need to calm down, Thomas. You've done this a million times, just enjoy this,'" he said. "I collected myself after the first. I said, 'You've done this before, trust your mechanics and just play catch.'"
Selected by the Texas Rangers with the 10th overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Diamond struck out Jeffrey Dragicevich to end the inning and retired eight batters in a row before Blanco drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. Striking out Dragicevich was a big boost to Diamond's confidence.
"It felt good to know that I still had that ability to do that, to reach back and get something extra," he said. "I did it a few times where I elevated a fastball and threw some curveballs."
The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder got into trouble again in the fifth, allowing the first three batters to reach base. He struck out Christopher Nelson, but Miller plated a run with a groundout to end Diamond's night.
The University of New Orleans product ended up throwing 50 of 87 pitches for strikes in his longest outing since Aug. 27, 2006.
Diamond experienced discomfort in his elbow in January 2007 and had to leave after one inning of an exhibition game for Texas on March 6. An MRI revealed a torn ligament.
"For four months I couldn't pick up a baseball," he said. "I'd do the same things every morning. It got old pretty quick, but you realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You keep going toward it, knowing one day you'll be done with rehab. And that kind of got me through everything."
Before that, Diamond was establishing himself as one of the better pitching prospects in the Rangers' organization, combining with John Danks and Edinson Volquez to form the "DVD" trio. He was named Texas' Minor League Player of the Year in 2005, then went 12-5 with a 4.24 ERA with Frisco in 2006.
Reliever Brennan Garr (1-0) got the win, despite giving up two runs on three hits and a walk with three strikeouts in 1 1/3 frames.
Max Ramirez went 4-for-5 with four RBIs and four runs scored, homered for the second straight game and fell a triple short of the cycle for Frisco (30-15), which has won seven of its last nine games. Chris Davis added three hits and also drove in four runs.
Drillers starter Tomas Santiago (2-3) yielded eight runs -- seven earned -- on seven hits and two walks with a strikeouts in five innings.
Dragicevich led off the sixth with his fifth homer, while Blanco and Kindel each knocked in two runs for Tulsa (17-28).