First-inning woes by Volquez will pass

First-inning woes by Volquez will pass

Published Apr. 10, 2011 8:46 a.m. ET

The Cincinnati Reds were 5-0 at the time, and somebody in the Great American Ball Park press box mentioned how perturbed some fans are with pitcher Edinson Volquez.

“Ah, the Reds could go 162-0 this season and some fans would be complaining about something,” said one occupant.

Volquez is set to make his third start of the season Monday in San Diego, despite the fact some fans would rather see him wearing a Louisville uniform.

Fans are concerned that Volquez pitched the first inning of his first two starts like a slow-pitch softball pitcher: throw and duck.

What they fail to take into account is that Volquez is 1-0 and the Reds won both of his starts.

Yes, he started the season by giving up back-to-back home runs and three runs in the first inning of Opening Day. But that’s all he gave up, and the Reds came back to win on a three-run, game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth by Ramon Hernandez.

Yes, he gave up four runs in the first inning of his second start. But that’s all he gave up and the Reds came rip-roarin’ back to bury the Houston Astros 12-4.

But some fans think Volquez should be yanked from the rotation forthwith. Some fans think he should be yanked from the rotation when Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey come off the disabled list.

Cease and desist.

It is only two starts. The Reds won both of those games. What ails him in the first inning can, and will, be fixed.

For some reason, Volquez fell in love with strikeouts. Strikeouts are nice, look good on the resume, but strikeouts also build up pitch counts. And that really is Volquez’s major issue.

He uses up too many pitches. He reaches 100 by the fourth and fifth innings, and too quickly manager Dusty Baker is digging into his bullpen.

As deep as that bullpen is, going to it early and often isn’t conducive to preserving arms over the long haul, or even the short haul.

After Volquez recorded all six outs via strikeouts in the first two innings against Houston, Baker sat down next to him in the dugout between innings and made an observation.

It went something like this: “When you are on the mound, do you see all those guys standing behind you wearing baseball gloves?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know why they are out there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“OK, let’s use ‘em," Baker said. "If they weren’t out there for a purpose, we’d let you and the catcher go out there by yourselves and the rest of the players could stay here in the dugout resting and keeping warm until it is time for them to bat.”

The message, of course, was to throw some quality strikes that will tempt the hitters to swing and put the ball in play and let the defense help Volquez record some outs in one or two pitches.

Nobody was howling about Volquez in 2008 when he won 17 games and made the All-Star team.

And folks forget that he is coming off Tommy John surgery and missed nearly an entire year. He made only 12 starts at the end of last season and is probably still pulling surgical sutures out of his elbow.

He’ll be OK.

And there is no reason to worry or fret about who goes and who stays when Cueto and Bailey come off the DL. Why worry now? That isn’t going to happen for at least two to three weeks.

Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start Sunday in an extended spring training game in Goodyear, Ariz. Bailey will do the same thing four days later.

They both require at least two rehab appearances to make certain their shoulders are fine and dandy.

When that is accomplished, then and only then, will the Reds have to make some tough decisions.

By then, Volquez might have pitched two shutouts.

Who knows what will happen two to three weeks from now. Another starting pitcher might be injured. Another starting pitcher may be struggling.

It’s a decision that doesn’t have to be made until the proper time and a decision neither general manager Walt Jocketty nor Baker is even thinking about at this moment.

Look at it this way: It’s a problem every major league team wishes it had — too many starting pitchers. It wasn’t too many years ago that if the Reds lost one starting pitcher, let alone two, they’d be on eBay scrolling through the ads looking for a starting pitcher.

It’s a far cry from the days when the Reds were fortunate to have one or two reliable pitchers. They would invite 37 pitchers to camp, most of them coming off injuries from other teams or in the twilight of their mediocre careers. They would throw ‘em all against the wall and hoped two or three would stick.

It’s a long, long way from the days when the Opening Day starter was Jimmy Wayne Haynes or the starter in a tiebreaker game to make the postseason was Steve Parris.