Cincinnati Reds: It's a Make or Break Year for Edinson Volquez

Michael HammonsCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 06:  Edinson Volquez #36 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on October 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Heading into 2011, the Cincinnati Reds have a deep rotation, not necessarily loaded with aces, but with arms who are definitely strong enough to get a team through the 162 game ringer.

Common consensus is that Bronson Arroyo will continue to be a solid, extremely durable pitcher.  He's no ace, but he will take the hill every day and probably give you six/seven innings of three runs allowed.  Johnny Cueto may take another leap forward in his own development, but even if he doesn't, he should be able to produce a similar season to what he did last year.

Those are really the sure bets in the rotation, as Travis Wood, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake will all battle for the final two slots in the rotation.  

All of the aforementioned pitchers are very good major leaguers, or in the case of the younger guys, certainly have the potential to be.

However, there is one man, who, on his best days, is better than them all.

In the controversial Josh Hamilton trade, one on paper that looks pretty bad right now, Edinson Volquez burst onto the scene, and put together a first half to the 2008 season that Reds fans will never forget.

Three years later, we are waiting for the sequel.

In baseball years Volquez is young, but not THAT young.  Are we expecting too much from a soon to be 28-year old who has put together one half of a great season in his career?  I mean, how many careers really take off at that age?

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee is an example of someone who got off to a bit of a late start, and future hall of famer Randy Johnson didn't necessarily show ace stuff until his mid/late 20s. So there are guys who blossom at an age where many are as good as they are ever going to be.

What we do know is, Dusty Baker gave Volquez the ball to start the division series, and will entrust him with opening day responsibilities. That speaks volumes.

For the Reds to get where they want to go, they need someone to match a Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay on their best days.  A clear message has been sent that the Reds think Volquez can be that guy.

As he becomes further removed from Tommy John surgery, a procedure not nearly as daunting as it once was, it will be fascinating to see how his season unfolds.

As mentioned, they are constructed solidly enough to win another NL Central title, but what Volquez does may determine if they can go places that Reds fans haven't seen for nearly a generation.