SARASOTA, Fla. - A week or so after the Reds acquired Edinson Volquez in a trade from Texas, he showed up at the Reds' camp in the Dominican Republic.
"He came on his own," said former Reds ace Mario Soto, the team's Director of Dominican Operations. "He wanted to throw."
So throw he did, thoroughly impressing Soto.
"He's got pretty good stuff," Soto said. "He was throwing 95, 96. He's got a really good change-up. His curveball is not bad. But he told me he fell in love with his change-up and stopped throwing the curve. He just needs to throw it a little more."
The Reds gave up a lot to get Volquez. They sent outfielder Josh Hamilton, last year's feel-good story, to Texas in the deal.
Volquez, a 24-year-old right-hander, was surprised when he learned he had been traded.
"Last year was my best year," he said. "I thought if I threw this year like last year, I'd be fine."
Volquez was the Rangers' No. 1 pitching prospect.
He didn't make the Rangers' roster out of spring training last year. He was sent to Single-A for a wake-up call.
Volquez was dominant after being moved to Double-A. He combined to go 14-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts at Double-A and Triple-A.
That earned him a September call-up. He went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts for the Rangers.
Volquez struck out 193 in 1702/3 innings last year.
He's shown that in camp. Sunday in a live batting practice session against Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Norris Hopper and Paul Bako, Volquez was virtually untouched. Hopper hit one ball hard toward the end of the session.
"He's got a really good change-up," Dunn said. "He throws hard, too."
That's always been the case with Volquez. But the difference at the major league level for him last year was he challenged hitters. In his two previous stints with the Rangers, he walked 27 and struck out 26.
Last year, he struck out 29 and walked 15.
"I'm more experienced," he said. "Now, I feel like I can control my emotions. Two years ago, three years ago, everything was fast. I was rushing a little bit. Now, I can control my emotions."
As Soto said, Volquez has three major league pitches. His fastball and change-up are well above average. If he can mix in his curve a bit more - 12 to 15 times a game - it will make him that much better.
But the key for Volquez is putting his pitches where he wants them.
"Hopefully, he can continue to show improvement in his command," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "When you've got that kind of stuff, the next step is command. If you get command with that stuff, you're going to be a heck of a pitcher and make this trade look great."
Volquez is in the mix for a starting job, along with Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Matt Maloney, Josh Fogg and Jeremy Affeldt.
Volquez is similar to Bailey and Cueto in that he is right-handed, throws in the mid-90s and has impressive minor- league numbers. Volquez was 37-29 with a 3.64 ERA in six minor-league seasons. He struck out 618, walked 227 and allowed 490 hits in 594 innings.
But he doesn't see this camp as a competition between him and the other young guys.
"I don't feel that way," he said. "I just try to do my job. We have a lot of arms - Cueto, Bailey. We have a good future."
The question with all of them is: When is the future?
"From what I saw (with Volquez), his time is now," Soto said.