MIN@NYM: Diamond strikes out six over 3 2/3 innings

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With 14 Spring Training games remaining until Opening Day, Twins left-hander Scott Diamond felt the pressure.

Diamond, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, knew he needed to keep pace with righties Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley and Kyle Gibson entering Saturday afternoon's start against the Mets at Tradition Field.

The 27-year-old, who is out of options, bounced back from a pair of rough outings to allow two runs on three hits over 3 2/3 innings in a 3-3 tie.

Six of his 11 outs were via the strikeout, all of which were swinging. He issued three walks.

"I thought today was a big day," said Diamond, who threw 64 pitches (38 strikes). "If I didn't show some progress or some steps toward getting back to my former self, I think it was going to be a real tough stretch. Today, even with the walks, I felt my timing was better, my rhythm was a lot better [and] my pace was a lot better. I'm happy with how the outcome was."

In his past two appearances, Diamond had allowed seven runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks over four innings.

Not only was his fastball command better on Saturday, but so were his secondary pitches. Diamond credits guys in the locker room for noticing some things to tweak. For one, he stayed on his back side a lot more, which improved the direction of the ball.

"Curveball was really working well for me today," said Diamond, whose ERA dropped from 6.00 to 5.59. "I think that's a really good sign, given that it's probably been the last pitch to come back since 2012."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said he wanted to see the pitcher who posted a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts as a rookie in '12. Last season, he began the year on the disabled list because of offseason elbow surgery. Upon his return, he finished with a 5.43 ERA in 24 starts.

Though he did not pitch a clean inning, Diamond didn't labor much.

Chris Young blasted a solo home run deep to left with two outs in the first. In the third, Matt Reynolds led off with an infield single and moved to third on Matt den Dekker's sharp single to right. Reynolds scored on Daniel Murphy's sacrifice fly.

Righty Anthony Swarzak came on in relief with a runner on second with two outs in the fourth following Diamond's wild pitch on a strikeout of Taylor Teagarden.

"Diamond's first inning was so-so, but after that he threw the ball well," Gardenhire said. "The ball came out of his hand good. Too many walks -- he knows that -- but overall a good performance for him. Throwing the ball well, had some dive to it, his fastball had some movement."

Added Diamond: "It was a step in the right direction. We'll just continue to work on it for that next start. Whether there will be a start or coming out of the 'pen again, I'll prepare the same, because you've still got to get that pitch count up."

Gardenhire trying to get Bartlett at-bats

Jason Barlett is a non-roster invitee at Twins camp. (AP)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Non-roster invitee Jason Bartlett is trying to make up for lost time, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is doing his best to help him do so.

Bartlett, who started at second base and led off for the Twins during Saturday afternoon's game against the Mets, did not play in 2013 after nine seasons in the big leagues, four of which were with Minnesota.

Gardenhire hoped to get Bartlett more at-bats to shake off the rust. After going 0-for-4 on Saturday, he is now hitless in 24 plate appearances. He struck out swinging, flied out to center, hit a hard liner for an out at third and grounded out to the pitcher.

"He's been fighting through it," Gardenhire said. "He's been out a year of baseball, and right now it's hard to get everybody at-bats with this many guys in camp."

The 34-year-old recently played in a Minor League game for that reason. Gardenhire was told Bartlett was staying on the ball better and hit a couple of line drives.

As a result, Gardenhire wanted to build off that performance to help Bartlett's confidence. In his career, he has hit leadoff in 135 games.

"I know how this guy plays," Gardenhire said. "I've had him. We're looking for leadership and veteran experience, and he does all those things. Now, does he have the ability to be where he was or close to it so that he can help us? That's what we're looking for."

Gardy hopeful Florimon will return soon

Outlook: Florimon capable of solid power-speed mix

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had his way, shortstop Pedro Florimon would already be one step closer to returning to the ballclub.

Instead, the 27-year-old took Saturday off and will play five innings on Sunday in a Minor League game.

Florimon, who had his appendix taken out on Feb. 17, saw his first action of Spring Training on Friday. He played three innings at short, making one error and going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Gardenhire received "nothing spectacular, but [a] good report" from that Minor League game. Florimon said he felt healthy.

"If he gets through that one, which I believe he will, then he's going to be full bore after that," Gardenhire said. "He'll be back with us after that. He gets through that, they'll release him and I can use him how I want. I would love to have him out there. I like watching him play."

Versatile Herrmann adding first base to repertoire

MIN@HOU: Herrmann nabs Barnes trying to steal second

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Chris Herrmann thought he'd be in the Twins' lineup as catcher for the March 2 game in Port Charlotte against the Rays.

That is until bench and catching coach Terry Steinbach informed him that he would be playing first base.

"I said, 'Steiny, I don't even have a first-base mitt,'" Herrmann recalled. "He's like, 'Well, you need to find one.' I didn't say no. I want to play. Whatever gets me in the game. That's just my mentality and mindset. Any opportunity I get to be able to be on the baseball field, I'm happy about."

Herrmann used Chris Colabello's glove that day and Brandon Waring's the next against the Orioles in Sarasota. He continues to borrow from teammates, because he still doesn't have his own.

The 26-year-old, after all, hadn't played the position since high school. In 64 Major League games since 2012, he has played either catcher or outfield in all but one of them.

"I just go out there and take advantage of every opportunity so far," said Herrmann, who is 5-for-10 (.500) with two runs and a double in eight spring games. "Every at-bat, I just try to have my best at-bat possible. I feel like my mindset is right right now [and] really positive. I have a lot of confidence in myself. That feels great, and I feel good defensively. I feel prepared to go out and help our pitching staff, be confident in myself and them comfortable to throw to me."

While Herrmann still considers himself one of manager Ron Gardenhire's options at catcher, he doesn't mind showing off his versatility. By playing multiple positions, he has a better shot at making the club come Opening Day.

A few times last season, he started at catcher only to switch to outfield later on in the game.

"That could be my role," Herrmann said. "If that's what I need to do to stick up in the Majors, that's what I'm going to work on and get better at."

Herrmann replaced Eric Fryer at catcher in the sixth inning of Saturday's game. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout swinging and hard-hit 4-6-3 double play.

Worth noting

• Both Aaron Hicks and Alex Presley, candidates for an Opening Day outfield spot, made the long bus ride from Fort Myers, Fla.

Hicks, who hit second in the order and started in center, went 1-for-3 to bump his average to .261. He has three runs, a double, a home run and three RBIs this spring. Presley, who's hitting .160 with one RBI this spring, replaced Hicks as a defensive substitution in the fifth. He finished 0-for-1 with a walk and run scored.

With the amount of time Minnesota will spend away from its Spring Training complex over the next few days, Gardenhire wanted a chance to see both guys as much as he can.

The Twins had a split-squad game in Tampa on Friday before Saturday's trip to Port St. Lucie. They host the Marlins on Sunday and then visit the Orioles in Sarasota on Monday night.

"If I kept leaving one guy home and taking another, then I won't see [the other] at all," Gardenhire said. "My only chance is to bring everybody along, and I need players right now."

• Saturday's game saw a play at the plate during the bottom of the fourth.

Anthony Recker tried to score from second on Brian Burgamy's single to right, but Chris Parmelee's throw beat him.

It took Fryer to the left of home plate along the third-base line. He applied the tag on Recker for the third out of the inning.

"Very nice, great throw," Gardenhire said. "That's what you've got to do. We've been working on it long enough. You better throw it perfect. Good tag play. I don't know how the umpires see that, and that's what I'm talking about. My catcher had to come up the line, end of the line to catch the ball. The ball's going to take you there.

"It's not going to be cut and dry, 'I can't move there.' On that play when my guy's cutting the ball up there, he may have to run into him. He may not have anywhere else to go. It's going to be interesting to see how that all develops as we go along."