FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Just a year removed from a 12-win season, Scott Diamond finds himself in a battle for the fifth-starter's spot on the Minnesota Twins.
The Canadian left-hander is hardly alone.
"Competition brings out the best nature in everybody," Diamond said Monday before pitchers and catchers held the spring's first workout. "I know from my own experience, when I've been put under a little pressure I've always performed my best. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out."
As many as seven pitchers appear to have a shot at claiming the final spot in a revamped Twins rotation.
Like Diamond, right-handers Vance Worley and Sam Deduno are out of minor-league options and spent good chunks of 2013 in baseball's lowest-rated rotation. Worley was the Opening Day starter a year ago, while Deduno was surprisingly effective for several months before having season-ending shoulder surgery in September.
Former first-rounder Kyle Gibson is back after a disappointing 10-start audition left him with a 6.53 ERA last season. Triple-A left-hander Kris Johnson, acquired from Pittsburgh this offseason, is a potential sleeper after winning the equivalent of an International League ERA title (2.39) in 135 2-3 innings.
Don't forget top-10 prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May. Both power right-handers are seeking to make the jump from Double-A after strong showings in the Arizona Fall League.
"I think all of them have got some experience," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've got some kids that are going to battle, too, which is a good thing. Whether they're ready to do this or not, if they step up and blow it away down here . we really have to make the right decision whether it's the right thing to do to start them here or start somebody else here."
Gardenhire mentioned "roster issues," a reference to the three starters that can't be sent back to the minors without first being exposed to waivers. This would seem to work in their favor, but the manager, newly signed to a two-year extension this offseason, downplayed that factor.