CINCINNATI (AP) - Right-hander Edinson Volquez was surprised
that the Cincinnati Reds made him No. 2 in the rotation coming out
of the All-Star break.
Shows how much the NL Central leaders expect from their
surgically repaired pitcher.
The Reds decided that Volquez will start the second game of
their series against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, completing
his comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery last Aug. 3. The
27-year-old Volquez won a team-high 17 games in 2008, but struggled
last season with the bad elbow.
Now, he's starting over with big expectations.
"It surprised me when they told me I'm going to pitch tomorrow
because there's guys who've been here longer than me," Volquez
When he was healthy, no one on the staff was better. They expect
him to be close to that again at some point.
"This is the beginning of the season for him," manager Dusty
Baker said. "You've got to be a little more tolerant. It's not
like this guy's unproven. It's like a lot of guys who have had
Tommy John (surgery) and come back. He'll probably be better next
year than he will be this year."
His return gives the Reds a surplus of starting pitching.
Rookies Mike Leake and Travis Wood have been dependable additions
to a rotation missing right-handers Aaron Harang (sore back) and
Homer Bailey (inflamed pitching shoulder).
When Harang and Bailey are ready to come off the disabled list,
the Reds will have more starters than positions for them.
"You can do a lot with 'too many,"' Baker said. "You can do a
lot with pitching. The next step is a coin flip - which ones do you
keep or which ones do you eventually move? Right now. we're not in
a position to talk about moving them, but eventually something is
going to have to happen to somebody."
For now, Volquez's return gives the Reds a boost in what has
turned into a two-team race. The Reds and the defending champion
St. Louis Cardinals are the only teams in the NL Central with
Harang, their opening day starter, went on the disabled list
July 6 with a sore lower back that is still bothering him.
"He threw the other day and said he didn't feel anything, then
the day after he felt a little stiffness again," Baker said. "He
was ordered not to throw for a couple of days. Now we're going on
two weeks (he's been sidelined), so he's going to have to get back
into pitching shape."
The Reds expected Volquez back sometime in August - the usual
recovery time for his injury is a year. He had no setbacks in his
rehabilitation program, allowing him to get back a month ahead of
Volquez expects to be nervous when he starts Saturday against
Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa.
"Probably going to be like the first time ever," Volquez said.
"I feel like I haven't pitched in two years. I don't know how I'm
going to feel."
Volquez served a 50-game suspension earlier this season after
testing positive for a banned fertility substance. The suspension
cost him money - $133,743 - but no playing time. He was allowed to
work out at the Reds' spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.,
and make rehab appearances in the minors during the suspension.
Volquez said fans didn't razz him about the suspension during
his minor league appearances.
"I didn't hear anything down there," he said. "That surprised
me, too. You play against different teams and in different places,
they cheer for their team. But I didn't hear anything."