COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins demoted Scott Diamond and Aaron Hicks after both struggled against the Kansas City Royals, who finished off a sweep of the Twins at Target Field on Thursday, Aug. 1. The demotions were long overdue.
Diamond just hasn't been the same pitcher he was in 2012 after having offseason surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. He was the only consistent starting pitcher that year in a rotation that was the American League's worst.
He thrived in 2012 despite a low strikeout rate, because he was one of the best in the AL in throwing strikes and getting ground balls. However, his strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball rate have all gotten worse in 2013, which is why he sported a 5.52 ERA and 1.55 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) before being demoted on Thursday.
Hopefully, Diamond can get back to being a strike-throwing ground ball machine, because the Twins have only one starter that is pitching well with any consistency in Samuel Deduno. And the Twins have to hope that Deduno's new-found control isn't fleeting.
Aaron Hicks' Latest Slump Earns Him a Demotion to Rochester
Diamond will be joined in Rochester by Hicks, who most teams would have sent down back in June, if not earlier. The rookie center fielder had never played above Class AA until making the Twins' opening-day roster after the team traded away outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere for young pitching.
Hicks started out his career 2-for-56 with 20 strikeouts. Hicks has a history of slow starts in the minor leagues, so the Twins remained patient. He rewarded their patience by batting .251/.300/.467 over the next 49 games.
Hicks went 4-for-4 against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 8 to get his season batting average over .200 for the first time all season. However, he then went into a three-weak slump that led to his demotion. After what looked like a breakout game for Hicks, he went 10-for-66 with 19 strikeouts and just four walks before the Twins decided to see if he could gain some confidence in Class AAA.
The Twins replaced Hicks on the roster with Oswaldo Arcia, who went into his own bad slump in early July before being demoted. Arcia was 1-for-24 from July 6 through 12 with 13 strikeouts, including 11 strikeouts in his final 14 plate appearances.
Arcia turned things around quickly and batted .313/.436/.563 in his final 10 games at Class AAA Rochester. The Twins are hoping Hicks can do the same.
For now, the Twins' only true center fielder is Clete Thomas, who really shouldn't be more than a fourth outfielder. He doesn't hit enough to be a corner outfielder, and he isn't good enough defensively to be an everyday center fielder. The only possible backup for Thomas is Chris Herrmann, who splits time between catcher and the corner outfield spots. Manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't even sure if Herrmann was capable of playing left field before Rochester manager Gene Glynn assured him Herrmann could last month.
Darin Mastroianni could make a nice platoon partner for Thomas in center field, but Mastroianni has only had a handful of at-bats on a rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League as he recovers from surgery on his ankle. Mastroianni is probably at least a couple weeks away from being promoted.
Minnesota Twins' Outfield Defense Will Be Brutally Bad for a While
At least Twins fans get to see Arcia hit. When he's right, he's the Twins' best power hitter right now. Unfortunately, he's not so good in the outfield. With Arcia replacing Hicks, that means the outfield will consist of Arcia, Thomas and one of the Twins' two backup catchers, unless the Twins want to try and toss Chris Colabello in right field again. The outfield defense will be pretty brutal for a while.
The replacement for Diamond won't be promoted until Saturday, and the Twins haven't announced who it is yet. However, it should be Andrew Albers, who has been far and away the best pitcher in Rochester since Kyle Gibson was promoted.
Albers rarely reaches 90 mph, but he has a 2.86 ERA and 1.18 WHIP for Rochester in 132 1/3 innings with 116 strikeouts and just 32 walks. He's allowed just four earned runs in his last four starts. His last two starts were complete games, including one on Wednesday, which means he could slide into Diamond's spot in the rotation very easily.
Albers probably should have been promoted sooner, but he is not on the 40-man roster. The Twins didn't have a spot for him until they traded away minor league catcher Drew Butera to the Dodgers on the last day before the trade deadline. Clearing a spot for Albers could easily have been the primary motivation for trading away Butera.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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