Edinson Volquez’s surgically repaired right elbow seems to be holding up just fine. His velocity and movement on pitches are as good as ever. What seems to be plaguing the talented right-hander is between the ears. In each of his 5 starts this season, Volquez has flirted with not making it out of the first inning. That he is 2-1 is a testament to his ability to refocus and continue on, often in dominating fashion. That yesterday he gave up back to back leadoff homers to start the game is puzzling to say the least.
Volquez has long been the most mercurial of the Reds precocious young pitchers. Coming back from Tommy John surgery last season, he struggled to regain the command of what was the kind of “stuff” that landed him in the All-Star game and prompted the Reds to give up Josh Hamilton to acquire him. Thus far this season, he’s flashed his brilliance quite often; unfortunately, it’s been after a start that has put him and the Reds in a hole. It would appear that Volquez needs to make some mental adjustments to his game.
Short of Tim Kremchek performing a parietal lobe transplant, the adjustment is entirely on Volquez. Whether it’s his preparation or just simply his level of focus to start a game, Volquez must get a handle on his first inning issues before they become a bigger problem. For the Reds, it’s a matter of taxing an already thin bullpen, perhaps this team’s Achilles heel. But the Reds have Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey coming off the DL soon and Mike Leake, Travis Wood, and Sam Lecure have already proven their abilities to take the ball every fifth day. No, the Reds will be fine, even if Volquez continues to throw BP after the umpire has yelled “play ball!”
Volquez is the one with the most to lose here. Unlike his compatriot, Johnny Cueto, Volquez opted not to sign a long-term deal with the Reds this winter, ostensibly to leave himself open for free agent courting after this season. If Volquez is anywhere near his 2008 self, he’ll command big dollars from the Yankees, Red Sox, or any of the other cash-flush teams that annually re-stock their rotations with the checkbook. But with a one year deal and pitching on a club with a rare excess of quality starters, Edinson could find himself in a precarious situation, either relegated to the bullpen or traded for a spare part for a Reds post-season run. Either way, Volquez, who has displayed a penchant for lavish living, would be looking at a significant lifestyle adjustment.
If Volquez wants to make his decision to sign for only one year a lucrative one, he needs to fix himself under the cap post-haste. If he does, the Reds go from division contenders, to pennant contenders. If he doesn’t, the Reds still have enough juice to win the NL Central; but Edinson certainly won’t have enough cash or clout to continue to star in rap videos.