Unbeknown to many, Edinson Volquez did some pitching yesterday against Diamondbacks' minor leaguers. In five innings, Volquez allowed two earned runs, struck out three, walked one, hit three batters and threw two wild pitches. He was getting some work in, perhaps drilling down on a few elements of his game. But control issues have been a problem for Volquez, even during his 2008 All Star campaign. He can still be very effective while scattering walks, but not when he's scattering the ball away from his catcher or into both lumber and lumbar. In other news: with Cueto on the mend and Willis' ankle in much better shape than originally feared. The injury wolves are at bay again.
Tonight's game is a Midnight Special. The recalcitrant state of Arizona refuses to get on-board with Daylight Savings Time, so spring night games (of which this is the last for the Reds) don't kick off until just after the Telephone Cut-off Time on the East Coast.
We're treated to another variation on the regular season lineup tonight - one I happen to like a little less than the others because it hits Bruce 6th, Hanigan 8th and suggests Dusty does not yet know quite what to do with Fred Lewis. Even before the Reds began playing out their Cactus League schedule , we knew we were in for a lot of fiddling at the margins. The playing time picture in left field is not insignificant, but far more important than lineup tweaks or last man on the bench is a very simple truth: the players we knew would be here since the winter have to play well once the season starts.
The narrative in a lot of the previews I've been seeing for this team is that it has the undeniable talent potential to repeat the division, but that no one is quite sure whether enough of that potential will materialize. That talent is not going to reach out and grab us in spring training or even early in the regular like an aggressive salesman and say "This team is a winner." It will likely be a soft sell - with gradual progress by some, fits and starts by others - as the sometimes unsteady performances from guys like Volquez, Stubbs and Bailey phase in and out.
Arredondo, Cordero and Ondrusek are all available to pitch after Arroyo. Bronson is now the undisputed veteran leader and Known Quantity in the rotation. But on some level, you never know what to expect from him - from periodic meltdowns to his kitchen sink pitching arsenal. His continued success depends on keeping us all guessing. Even when the games don't count (or especially?) there's quite a bit of fun in that - for player and fan alike.