The other thread is getting long so I'll just start a new one for this.
Volquez, Cueto close in
Baker all but says youngsters will be starters
BY JOHN FAY | JFAY@ENQUIRER.COM
SARASOTA, Fla. - Reds manager Dusty Baker came as close as he could to saying Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto will be in the starting rotation.
Baker was asked after Volquez's outing Sunday if Volquez and Cueto were separating themselves from the rest of the rotation competition.
"You want me to say it, or are you going to say it?" Baker said. "They're pitching like they belong alongside (Aaron) Harang and (Bronson) Arroyo in the rotation. They're dealing.
"They came in ready to pitch. They played Winter Ball, so they're ahead - not so much with velocity but with command. That's what you need. They're pounding the strike zone. If you walk people, you have no chance. If you get behind people, you have a little chance."
The young Dominican right-handers - Cueto is 22, Volquez is 25 - have been the talk of Reds camp this spring. They throw hard with good off-speed stuff. But what's been most impressive is the way they've fearlessly attacked tough competition.
That's what Volquez did Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies' "A" lineup. He pitched five shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out six in the Reds' 6-2 loss.
"Their guys were saying how hard it was to pick up his pitches," Baker said.
Volquez needed only 69 pitches to get through five innings, largely because he threw 47 strikes.
Volquez lowered his spring ERA to 3.46.
Most impressive: Volquez's 19 strikeouts and three walks in 13 innings.
Cueto has a 1.00 ERA in nine innings this spring. He's given up six hits and one walk and struck out eight.
The Reds' Opening Day rotation is looking like it will be Harang, Arroyo, Cueto, Volquez and veteran Josh Fogg. Fogg has out-pitched everyone else competing for a rotation spot - Homer Bailey, Matt Belisle and Jeremy Affeldt - and he's won 10 games five of the past six years.
Sunday was Volquez's first start. He began by striking out reigning National League Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins with a drop-off-the-table changeup on a 3-2 count.
"My changeup was my best pitch today," Volquez said. "I threw four sliders, four curves or something like that. I found out in the bullpen that the changeup was better today, so I better use it."
Volquez retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced - five by strikeout. His changeup was fooling guys big time, especially when they were expecting his fastball, which topped out at 96 mph.
Volquez, obtained in the Josh Hamilton trade, says the difference from the past is control - of his pitches and of himself.
"I'm throwing more strikes," he said. "That's what I'm going for. I control my emotions, too. I'm getting old, man."
He was not intimidated by the Phillies' lineup.
"When those guys go to home plate, I think, 'This is a big guy,' " he said. "I pitch like normal. But facing Ryan Howard, oh man. He's a big guy."
After going to the three-ball count on Rollins, Volquez didn't go to a three-ball count again until facing Howard with two outs in the fourth. Howard ended up singling.
"He was looking for a changeup," Volquez said. "That's what good hitters do."
Jayson Werth followed with a single, but Volquez struck out Geoff Jenkins for his sixth strikeout, leaving the runners stranded.
Volquez was at his best in the fifth. He got a routine groundball on the first pitch, but Brandon Phillips booted it. Volquez walked the next hitter. But he got out of it. Brett Myers popped up trying to bunt, Rollins hit into a fielder's choice and Shane Victorino grounded out.
Cueto will face a a similar test today when the Detroit Tigers come to Ed Smith Stadium.
The smart money says Cueto will go right after the Tigers.
"That's the way he and Volquez pitch," Reds Dominican coordinator Mario Soto said. "They have good stuff. They throw strikes. They go after you."