Volquez back from surgery on Saturday
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 said.
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 winning records.
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 schedule.
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."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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