Former first rounder and top prospect shifts to bullpen

Thomas Diamond continues to work his way back from surgery

Reliever Thomas Diamond made his Triple-A debut in 2009. (Wendy Eagan)

By Bob Hersom / | April 22, 2009 7:16 AM ET

Thomas Diamond's first RedHawks start, last Saturday night against Memphis, didn't last long or mean much.

No thanks to an hour-long rain interruption, Diamond went only two shutout innings, throwing 37 pitches. Not that it really mattered. He was on a 50-pitch limit.

"It was just a spot start," Diamond said, "so I was just trying to take the same mentality I've had all year in the bullpen out there. I just tried to get on top of them and get in there and out of there."

Diamond was a late replacement for scheduled starter Derek Holland, called up by Texas earlier in the day. But Diamond, once the Texas Rangers' top pitching prospect, wasn't being put back in the starting rotation.

"If he's going to the big leagues, it's going to be out of the bullpen," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "So he's going to have to learn how to do that. We were trying to get three, maybe four innings out of him is all. He did a good job."

Five years ago, Diamond was the Rangers' No. 1 draft choice, the 10th player picked in the 2004 baseball draft. He also was the Rangers' No. 1 prospect at any position.

After signing a $2.025 million bonus contract, Diamond rose quickly through the Texas organization, forging a 26-11 record in his first three pro seasons.

But he missed the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John (elbow) surgery, and he struggled last season, going 3-3 with a 6.20 ERA at Double-A Frisco.

This season, in in his first four games above Double-A, Diamond is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA. Omaha scored three runs on seven hits in Diamond's 2 1/3 innings Tuesday night.

"I'm pretty close to the way I was before," said Diamond, who turned 26 on April 6. "Everything seems to be coming back nicely, so I'd say I'm pretty close to how I was before. But not quite the same.

"My velocity isn't all the way back yet, but you just pitch with what you've got. I know that I'm not where I was before, not quite at my best yet."

Diamond was originally scheduled to report to the RedHawks at the end of the 2005 season. But his hometown of New Orleans was leveled by Hurricane Katrina, so Diamond returned home to help out the relief effort.

Now he's involved in an entirely different relief effort.

Coming into this season, Diamond had pitched in 79 professional games - only three as a relief pitcher.

"They told me I was going to be a relief pitcher late this spring," Diamond said. "It doesn't really matter, as long as I'm pitching. Either way. It's really fairly easy to switch from one to the other.

"I get a chance to play a little more, pitch in more ballgames. Pitching every fifth day, it's more of a set routine. Out of the bullpen, you just never know."

You never know, all right. Not so many years ago, Diamond, Edinson Volquez and John Danks were billed as the future of the Rangers' pitching staff. They were called the "DVD Trio." Baseball America rated Diamond as Texas' top prospect in 2005, Volquez was No. 1 in '06, and Danks was No. 1 in '07.

A lot's happened since then. The Rangers traded Volquez to the Cincinnati Reds and Danks to the Chicago White Sox. Last year, Volquez was 17-6 for the Reds and he pitched for the National League in the All-Star Game. Danks was 12-9 for the ChiSox, with the fifth-best ERA in the American League.

Diamond said he keeps in touch with his former "DVD" teammates.

"Volky actually called me right at the end of spring training," Diamond said. "I talk to him every once awhile, and Danks, I follow him, too. Those guys are doing great and I wish them all the best. We're all friends."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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