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Cincinnati Reds: Edinson Volquez’s Return Essential To Pennant Quest

After recovering from Tommy John surgery and serving a 50-game suspension, Edinson Volquez finally made his much anticipated debut Saturday against the Rockies.

The former Reds’ ace didn’t disappoint. In six innings, he only gave up one run on three hits and looked like the player that dominated in 2008.

Mixing his 95 mile-per-hour fastball with his always dangerous changeup and an improved slider, Volquez overcame a tough first inning to strike out nine Rockies on the night.

Overall, it looked like the surgery worked wonders for the starter. He hit 97 mph on some pitches, faster than what he hit before the injury. He struggled mightily in the beginning of 2009, but seems to have put that behind him.

His return is a win-win situation for the Reds. Not only do they get one of their top pitchers back, but they might not have to make a trade for big-time pitcher to bolster the rotation.

Volquez’s debut felt like a player making his first start following a big-time trade. The sold-out crowd of 41,000 was electric.

His return could be the final addition needed to keep up with the Cardinals in the division. No offense to Travis Wood or Sam LeClure, but Volquez offers a lot more at the end of the Reds rotation.

With Volquez back and the possible addition of Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen, the Reds would have the pitching strength to keep the wins coming. The Reds should take a page out of the Tampa Bay Rays’ book by putting Chapman in the bullpen like the Rays did with David Price late in 2008.

Volquez gives the Reds a good chance to win whenever he takes the mound. If Saturday wasn’t a fluke, hitters will have a hard time getting anything done against Volquez.

Hopefully Volquez is that final piece in the playoff puzzle. His timing could not have come at a better time with Cincinnati in the midst of a division race.

With that said, welcome back Edinson. You’ve been sorely missed.

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MLB All-Star Game 2010: Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto Deserves Final Spot For NL

Three Reds were named to the All-Star Game Sunday night.

It was a proud moment for a team that isn’t used to having an abundance of all-stars, but the name that was left off made it bittersweet.

Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto was not on the final National League roster, despite being in the top five in the NL in all three major statistical categories, with a .312 average, 19 home runs, and 57 RBI.

It’s not out of the question to say that Votto has been the NL MVP this first half. How can a man that some baseball experts consider the MVP not be included on an all-star team?

The numbers are even more impressive with Votto missing extended time with a neck injury earlier in the year.

According to ESPN’s MLB Player Rater, Votto is actually the top first baseman in the NL according to their system of four different statistical metrics for evaluating player performance.

Albert Pujols is definitely the top dog when it comes to NL first basemen, so fans voting him as the starting first baseman is not a surprise. He and Votto had similar numbers, but Pujols is one of the league’s most popular players. You can’t say the same for Votto.

But when it comes to the other first basemen added to the NL roster, Votto should have gotten the nod.

When you look at the numbers, Votto’s first half surpassed those of Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Howard.

Gonzalez’s production has been an integral part to the Padres’ resurgence. He leads the Padres in every major statistical category with .295 average, 16 home runs, and 51 RBIs.

But the same could be said about Votto being essential to the Reds’ resurgence. Votto’s hot hitting has been one of the biggest reasons Cincinnati leads the NL in hitting.

Votto leads the Reds all categories, like Gonzalez, but has had more of an impact for Cincinnati.

Toward Ryan Howard, the only reason Howard would get a pass over Votto is popularity.

Votto has four more home runs and is ahead of Howard by 18 points in batting average.

The numbers might be close, but Votto deserves to get his first selection due to how essential he has been to Reds’ charge to first-place in the NL Central.

Now, Votto goes up against Heath Bell, Carlos Gonzalez, Billy Wagner, and Ryan Zimmerman for the NL’s final man.

Of all the men on the ballot, Bell gives the only case close enough to Votto’s. The Padres’ closer leads the NL with 23 saves and has a 1.77 ERA.

None, however, have had the impact on their team that Votto has.

With one more player to select to the NL roster, Votto is the man who deserves the 34th and final spot.

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2010 MLB Draft Results: Yasmani Grandal Catches on with the Cincinnati Reds

Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal wasn’t supposed to be on the board when the Reds selected at 12th, but when he was, they were quick to pick him up.

Grandal came into the draft as one of the most polished prospects after spending three years at Miami. He has already garnered honors and accolades for his play this year and was named a first team All-American.

The pick looks solid.

Grandal is a safe pick due to his college experience. He is currently batting .412, tops in the ACC, with 14 home runs, and 56 RBIs for the Hurricanes.

It seemed as if the Reds wouldn’t have a shot at Grandal after he had supposedly been in talks with Kansas City. It almost seemed certain that he’d go to the Royals at No. 4, but when he slipped, the Reds knew they couldn’t pass him up as Grandal is a solid hitting catcher that can hit for power from both sides of the plate.

The Grandal pick is also intriguing due to his Cuban heritage.

Like current AAA and former Hurricane first baseman Yonder Alonso, Grandal hails from Cuba. If both develop into contributors for the Reds, the pair would be extremely exciting to watch.

There are some downsides to the pick however.

Grandal could be a hassle to sign. As Illya Harrell pointed out yesterday, he’s likely to demand a lot of money since he’s one of the most MLB-ready players in the draft.

With the Reds not having a boatload of money to throw around, it could be hard to get him to sign. Cincinnati barely signed Alonso a few years ago, inking him just minutes before the deadline. With the money the Reds have spent on Alonso, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman, the negotiations between Grandal and the Reds could be intense.

Some scouts have said that Grandal will have to improve his bat speed to succeed in the minors and majors, and some are skeptical about his defense.

The Reds used a pick on catcher Devin Mesoraco a few years ago, and he’s coming into his own as he moves through the minors. It seems that Grandal brings more to the table than Mesoraco, however.

Overall, the pick is definitely a solid one for the Redlegs as it’s hard to come across such a talented catching prospect at the No. 12 pick. The polish and hitting ability make the pick particularly appealing.

Let’s hope the Reds can sign him.

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Scott Rolen Doing More Than Just Leading for Cincinnati Reds

Scott Rolen has that look of a veteran. The third basemen sports a scruffy beard, receding hairline and an experienced look in his eyes.

That experience is exactly what the Cincinnati Reds have needed since his arrival late last season. On top of that, Rolen has given the Reds an unexpected boost on the offensive end with 11 home runs this season.

Reds’ fans questioned GM Walt Jocketty’s decision to trade talented but inconsistent third baseman Edwin Encarncaion for the 38-year-old Rolen. The Reds were a team built for the future; why would they want a third baseman that was on his way out?

But Jocketty knew what he was doing.

Rolen would provide the Reds with the veteran presence the team lacked.

Joey Votto is a good spokesperson for the team, but is too young to be considered the team’s leader. Brandon Phillips might be the Reds most marquee player, but with his attitude, the second baseman isn’t someone the team can count on.

An experienced veteran presence was needed in the young clubhouse.

Rolen missed some action with a concussion immediately upon arriving from Toronto, but when he was in the lineup, he proved his worth. Cincinnati finished the season 27-13 when Rolen was active.

How much Rolen’s role was in that is debatable, since he only slugged .401 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in his 40 games. I believe Rolen helped the young Reds learn how to play when he was in the lineup, even though he might not have had the biggest effect statistically.

This season, however, Rolen’s impact does correlate with his numbers.

The third baseman has 11 home runs, good enough to tie him for fourth in the National League (as of May 28). Rolen and Joey Votto are currently the only pair on any team in the league with more than 10 home runs.

The old man looks like the power-hitting hitter we saw in the late 90’s and early 2000’s with the Phillies and Cardinals.

Rolen’s energy and enjoyment for the game has been contagious around the clubhouse. At 28-20, Cincinnati came into their May 28 matchup a game up on the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Reds haven’t been eight games over .500 since June 2006.

Players like Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are starting to catch fire after early inning slumps, and the pitching has the talent to continue to be successful, although I do believe Mike Leake will cool off somewhat after his great rookie success.

What do I think the root of it is?

Some might say it’s the dominance of the pitching, but I believe it’s the veteran presence.

The team has learned to love and enjoy the game, thanks to veterans like Rolen and Orlando Cabrera, two former stars who are twinkling late in their careers. The energy has been contagious so far this season, and signs point to it continuing throughout the summer, although all Reds’ fans know the mid-summer usually means a trip back to mediocrity for Cincinnati.

The move might not help out a few years in the future. Encarnacion has equaled Rolen’s home run total for the Blue Jays this season and might be starting to live up to the potential and expectations people in Cincinnati had for him when he was on the Reds.

Rolen will undeniably retire here in a few years, but his presence now is pushing this team over the hump towards the playoffs, something Encarnacion never would have brought to the table.

Some might have questions Jocketty’s decision to get Rolen last season, but the move has paid dividends so far.

Even if he cools off from his current hot streak, the veteran’s leadership will be a key cog if Cincinnati wants to continue their current success.

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