No. 5 spot looking good for Volquez
Right-hander distancing himself from rest of contenders
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Reds rotation hasn't been formally announced, so pitcher Edinson Volquez wasn't ready to relax just yet."I don't know yet, but I hope so," Volquez said Tuesday when asked if he thought he made it. "They don't tell anybody. You have to wait. I want to make sure." Volquez shouldn't have to fret too much, even if manager Dusty Baker plays it close to the vest. The 24-year-old Volquez appears to have sewn up the rotation's No. 5 spot, and he has the numbers to back up that assertion. In his five-inning start during a 5-3 win over the Phillies on Tuesday, Volquez allowed one run and five hits, with one walk and five strikeouts. "It was a good outing today. I felt good," Volquez said. "He was very good, especially for the fact that was his second time seeing those guys," Baker said. "They made a few adjustments, but he still threw the ball well today. He threw more fastballs than the last time he saw them, so he made the adjustment himself." This spring, the right-handed Volquez is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six games, while tossing over 20 innings. In an optimistic sign of controlling the strike zone, he's given up just four walks while striking out 26. "That's the key -- to be consistent," said Volquez, who has allowed six earned runs and 22 hits this spring.
Compare Volquez's numbers to fellow rotation contender Homer Bailey, and it's no contest. Bailey has a 5.21 ERA with 24 hits, 16 walks and 11 strikeouts allowed over his 19 innings. Another contender, Matt Belisle, has a 9.00 ERA over four starts but has missed two turns because of a forearm injury that has likely quashed his hopes.Before his offseason trade from the Rangers to the Reds for Josh Hamilton, Volquez had a reputation for being erratic and throwing a lot of pitches. It's been the contrary in Cincinnati's camp this spring, where he has attacked the strike zone. He's also done well at changing speeds -- mixing his 96-mph fastball with a much improved changeup and a still developing curveball. "We like his mound presence and his poise," Baker said. "He threw the ball well." It was not all good for Volquez, however. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as a batter on Tuesday. "He has to work on his hitting some," Baker said. Volquez should have ample time to do that in the big leagues, starting next week.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.