Mark Townsend

Edinson Volquez's unlikely path to starting Game 1

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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After giving up five runs to the Giants in less than an inning on Aug. 23, Edinson Volquez(notes) didn't appear to be in the playoff plans of the Cincinnati Reds.

That Volquez was pitching poorly came as no surprise. He was only 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery at that time and had also received a 50-game suspension for PED violations. He was clearly struggling to regain command, velocity, arm strength, efficiency and pretty much everything a pitcher needs to survive in the bigs.

Just over a week later, Volquez was optioned to Single-A Dayton on Aug. 31 to make a "tune-up" start after a week of inactivity.

On Sept. 7, Volquez was recalled and his next four starts for the Reds were much more encouraging. He started four games in the month of September going 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA and a 3.88 K/BB ratio. It wasn't against the league's best competition — Pirates, D'Backs, Brewers, Astros — but it was enough to lead Volquez to ...

... Wednesday, when he'll lead the Reds into their first playoff game since 1995 and face off against Roy Halladay(notes) and the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

From August afterthought to October ace.

You OK with that, Dusty? (via ASAP Sports):

"The thing about it, we don't have the three clear-cut choices. I mean, you could put Halladay and Oswalt and [Hamels] in a hat and put your hand in there and you'd come out with a number one. So what we have, we have guys that are approaching number one, we have quite a few of them. We just thought that Volquez was the best choice for Game 1."

I think one could read into this decision a number of different ways, because "best choice" doesn't necessarily mean "best pitcher."

Perhaps Dusty sees the deck is stacked against his team with Halladay on the mound. Thinking ahead, by holding back Bronson Arroyo(notes) and Johnny Cueto(notes), the mindset could be to maximize their opportunity to steal Games 2 and 3.

(I actually didn't come up with that scenario. I heard it through my Mitch Williams thought translator.)

Maybe Dusty pulled a name out of a hat like he suggested Charlie Manuel could do. If so, how cool would it have been had they done that at the Cincinnati plaza rally?

Or maybe the "best choice" in this case DOES mean the "best pitcher" and "best chance to win" in Dusty's mind. I can't read Dusty's mind. There are times I wish I could. Game 6 in the 2002 World Series comes to mind.

This would be another of those times.

Whatever his real reason is, Reds fans probably aren't too concerned right now. Their return to the playoffs has been a long time coming. This entire day is a day of celebration. As it should be. They deserve the warm fuzzies and butterflies that go along with postseason baseball.

But just how long the joy lasts is anybody's guess. At lot of it is up to Volquez.

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