Every year it seems there’s a new reclamation project looking to get his career restarted in PETCO Park. This year, it’s Edinson Volquez. The former Reds hurler is looking to recapture the magic of his 2008 season, in which he struck out 206 batters in 196 innings and recorded a 3.21 ERA and a 3.60 FIP.
Nobody expects quite that much out of Volquez in 2012 as a member of the Padres, but his first two starts in San Diego have gone quite well. The 28-year-old rightyhas racked up 15 strikeouts in just 12 innings. His trademark wildness is still there — he’s already walked seven batters — but he’s done enough to limit the damage, allowing five total runs (four earned) in the two starts. In the final six innings of last night’s start he shut out the Diamondbacks while allowing just two hits — a three-hit first inning brought about the only runs Arizona would muster until extras.
Volquez has been extremely solid outside of two problem innings in particular: the aforementioned two-run first from last night’s start and a three-walk fourth inning on Opening Day against the Dodgers. The latter will probably just be part of Volquez’s character as a pitcher: his current 5.25 BB/9 is right in line with the last three seasons. But the former was largely a result of Volquez failing to cover first on a grounder off the bat of Miguel Montero.
Of course, it’s only 12 innings of baseball, but Volquez looks like he has a good home in San Diego. Things may not be so easy once he is forced to venture away from Tony Gwynn Drive, especially if Aaron Harang‘s experiences in his transition season from Cincinnati to San Diego is any indication. His former teammate Aaron Harang posted an ERA over a run higher away from San Diego in his stint with the Padres last season, and Volquez may have similar problems — it’s easier to get away with walks when the park is as forgiving as it is at PETCO.
On the other hand, Volquez’s stuff is unquestionably better than what Harang had to offer last season. Volquez’s fastball has been blazing at an average 94.5 MPH clip this season, just under five ticks faster than Harang’s as a Padre. Volquez is drawing whiffs on 10.6% of his pitches (as he has in years past, even when he wasn’t effective otherwise) against just 8.4% for Harang. When Volquez is able to keep the ball in the yard — he had a 0.64 HR/9 in his breakout 2008 season — he’s able to make his wild but electric stuff work, and that could shield him from the road issues Harang suffered from last season.
The question isn’t if Volquez will be able to lasso in his control and avoid the walks — we’re already pretty sure that he can’t. The question will be if he can continue to work around them as well as he has in his first two outings. With his stuff and with PETCO Park behind him for half of his outings, there’s a good chance we could see Volquez return to effectiveness in 2012.