10/17 Minor matters: Diamond & Samardzija

Right-hander Thomas Diamond, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Rangers, struck out five, did not walk a batter and gave up one hit in three innings early Saturday at Fitch Park in Mesa against the Angels. It was the last Instructional League game for the Cubs’ Minor Leaguers.

The next step for Diamond, who had Tommy John surgery in March 2007, is to go to Mexico to pitch for Mexicali. That’s where Jeff Samardzija has been pitching. In his second start on Thursday, Samardzija gave up one run on six hits over six innings and struck out four. He did not walk a batter. Samardzija has been working on developing a curveball.

“He’s putting them away with splitters and spotting his fastball,” Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita said of Samardzija. “We’ve tried to throw as much as we can at Jeff and, in fairness to him, he’s starting, he’s relieved, he’s had to sit around six or seven days between outings. It’s tough to learn his craft at the Major League level that way.

“This will be a great opportunity for him to go Mexico, get his legs under him, really work on his second and third pitches, learn command,” Fleita said. “Guys who are great athletes and have the determination he has, I’m betting on those guys every day of the week.”

* The Cubs have released outfielder So Taguchi, 39. He batted .248 at Triple-A Iowa, and was 3-for-12 in six games with the big league team when called up in September.

– Carrie Muskat

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