Volquez hopes to imitate Cueto

By Josh Katzowitz

Contributing Writer

Saturday, April 05, 2008

CINCINNATI Right-hander Edinson Volquez, who was answering questions about his upcoming Reds debut, spied Johnny Cueto walking to his locker and called out to his fellow Dominican Republic countryman, "Look at the hero right there."

Cueto, who dazzled teammates with his performance Thursday, April 3, turned and smiled maybe because he knows this: when Volquez takes the mound at 1:15 today, April 6, for his first Reds start, he'll have quite an act to follow.

"I hope to do the same thing he did," Volquez said. "It's very impressive for a young guy like that to throw seven innings, one run, 10 strikeouts. It's very exciting."

He's nearly as excited for himself.

Calling it the best spring training of his career, Volquez, acquired from Texas in the Josh Hamilton trade, went 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA and struck out 26 in 20 innings. But it's been a while since Volquez, who threw a bullpen session Thursday, has been on the mound in a real game.

"That's the way things worked out for him," manager Dusty Baker said. "We wanted to keep (Aaron) Harang on his normal day. That's one of the things that happens when you're a fifth starter."

The comparison with Cueto, though, is interesting. Volquez is older, has 80 innings of major-league experience (compared to seven for Cueto) and had a better spring training. But it'll be hard to top Cueto's debut.

Still, the two have formed a bond the last two months "from day one," Baker said and Baker can see how that will help the pair navigate through the season. Baker remembers a similar bond he shared with former teammate and roommate Ralph Garr.

"That helped a lot," Baker said. "It didn't have anything to do with envy and jealousy. It was pushing each other; it was competition."

Baker envisions the same thing happening between Volquez and Cueto.

"They want to be here, and they act like they've been here before," Baker said. "As far as experience, Volquez is a little more advanced than Cueto is. They're similar in age, and they're similar in stuff."

Power at the top

Center fielder Corey Patterson has found Great American Ball Park much to his liking.

With his eighth-inning home run Saturday, Patterson, the Reds team leader, tied the game 3-3 and answered Ryan Howard's blast in the top of that inning.

The home-run leader board so far this season:

Patterson 2

Howard 1

Adam Dunn 0

Ken Griffey Jr. 0

"I'm not a typical home run hitter," Patterson said. "My main goal is to get on base, score runs and be a line-drive hitter with occasional power. In that situation, I was just trying to get on base."

The power outburst, though, doesn't surprise Baker.

"I know he's going to hit some home runs in this park," Baker said. "He's starting to get his stroke together. Anytime you miss a couple weeks in spring training, you're going to be working from behind."

Valentin's leg OK

Catcher Javier Valentin, who left Friday's game in the sixth inning with a strained left hamstring, underwent an MRI Saturday, and Baker said the injury wasn't as bad as the Reds expected.

"It's better than we thought," Baker said. "He's able to pinch-hit. We just have to watch him running. It's not like he's a speed demon anyway. Hopefully, he'll be 100 percent in a couple days."

Valentin said he felt a twinge when he hit a fourth-inning double Friday. In the sixth, after a single to right field, he decided not to take any more chances.

"It's too early," Valentin said. "If you have to take a couple days and see what's going on there, I'd prefer that. I guarantee I didn't pull nothing serious. I could have still gone last night."