Volquez, Cueto, Cordero link arms in Dominican connection
By John Erardi • Enquirer staff writer • July 15, 2008
Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Francisco Cordero have formed a special Dominican pitching bond within the Reds clubhouse that is further strengthened by the occasional appearances of former Reds pitching star Mario Soto.
The Reds organization has greatly stepped up its presence in the Dominican in the search for more such players, which has only enhanced the fondness of Reds fans for Dominican dandies.
Baseball is about winning, and players like Volquez, Cueto and Cordero give the Reds their best chance of snapping the seven-year losing streak and eventually returning to the postseason they haven't experienced since 1995.
Volquez, who is the youngest of four siblings (he has three sisters) was born in Barahona in the southwestern part of the Dominican. But his family moved to the capital of Santo Domingo when he was 4 because there was more mechanic work for his father. The family settled in the town of Heina.
"There's a saying, 'We have the best arms in Heina,' " Volquez says. "I really believe it. I started off as a shortstop, but they (Dominican coaches) switched me to pitcher when I was 15."
Cueto was a strong-armed infielder (third base), too, before the Reds turned him into a pitcher.
It might say something about arm health that - from the youngest age - Dominican youngsters in general are always throwing something. But maybe Volquez and Cueto benefited by not being pitchers right away.
"Maybe," Volquez says. "Until you're about 15 and get the attention of the 'buscones' (who are the street agents with connections to the major league teams in the States), you never hear of pitch-counts," Volquez says. "The buscones want to protect your arm, because the players are their future. But in youth leagues, it's nothing for (starting) pitchers to start games on back-to-back days and throw a lot of pitches."
His buscone, a former minor-league pitcher, taught him the changeup, which along with Volquez's electric fastball is the knee-buckling pitch that distinguishes him. "When I signed with Texas in 2001, they required me to throw it at least 5 percent of the time," Volquez said. "Eventually, I built up confidence in it. Now I love to throw it ... Nobody has to order me to throw it now."