Three seasons ago, Reds' starting pitcher Edinson Volquez seemed to be on top of the world. 2008 was the season immediately following the blockbuster trade between the Reds and Rangers that sent MVP Josh Hamilton to Texas and Volquez to the Reds.
Reds' fans initially scoffed at what was seemingly a disaster - in three seasons with the Rangers (none of which were full seasons), Volquez had gathered a career 8.67 ERA. Meanwhile, Hamilton's glorious return in Cincinnati had come in the form of a .292 batting average with 19 dingers and 47 RBI - not bad for 90 games.
Both teams would immediately become satisfied, and fans would be cheering their new athletes as if they'd been lifelong studs. While Hamilton batted an incredible .304 with 32 home runs and a league leading 130 RBI, Volquez won 17 games, had a 3.21 ERA and made an appearance in the All-Star game.
That seems so long ago.
Cincinnati welcomed the 2009 season with much hope for what seemed to be a new perennial Cy Young contender. Unfortunately, disappointment awaited them.
Volquez only managed to start eight games before a stint on the 15-day DL. His first start back lasted exactly one inning.
Following his one-inning start, it was revealed that Volquez would need Tommy John surgery. He finished 2009 at a 4-2, 4.35 ERA mark.
In a blink of an eye, so much hope of the Reds' future seemed to be lost - for over a year, Cincinnati went without a single start from a man who once looked to be baseball's next big thing.
Finally, July 17, 2010 came rolling around, and Volquez's triumphant return was upon us. Great American Ballpark seated over 35,000 fans that day, all of whom were hopeful Volquez was ready to return to 2008 form. They would not be disappointed on this day.
In six innings of work, he allowed three hits and a run en route to his first victory of 2010. Celebrate in Cincinnati!
Years of questionable pitching in the Queen City had finally come to an end - Volquez was in a powerful starting rotation with Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, and Travis Wood. Unfortunately, the celebration would be short-lived.
Volquez would not have many starts like his 2010 debut - in 12 starts, he managed only four quality ones, and would get run from the 2010 NLDS against the Phillies in Game 1 after allowing four runs in only an inning and two-thirds.
What we have seen this year is an indication of a man unable to regain his composure. His fastball ranges from 92-96 MPH, and rarely has control. His changeup has almost ceased to exist, and his curveball and slider also fail to hit the strike zone more often than not.
It seems unfair to condemn Volquez, given that he does show signs of greatness about 7% of the time. When that curveball breaks right and hits the zone, it's downright nasty.
In 2008, Volquez had 206 strikeouts to 93 walks. In 2011 in the bigs, he's had 53 strikeouts to 38 walks. Fans all over the country have been taught to believe that Tommy John surgery fixes pitchers; once again, at least in the case of Edinson Volquez, I am inclined to doubt this.
When a man's elbow gets fixed, shouldn't his pitching follow suit? Or maybe his time off during his rehab destroyed him.
What I perceive to be the the best reason is that Volquez's mind hasn't been able to get right. Volquez is to the Reds what Carson Palmer is to the Bengals - once perceived as a savior, an injury has affected him so badly that he can't be the same.
It is very plausible to believe that every time Volquez throws a pitch, the thought enters his mind: Watch the elbow; don't be too rough.
I've watched footage from 2008 and 2011 and it seems that Volquez is over exaggerating his throws when he's under pressure, and under exaggerating when he's not. He has been unable to regain that perfect form and release that was once so dominant.
I hate to admit it, but Cincinnati appears to have witnessed another savior bite the dust. I've never wished I was wrong so bad. Perhaps the time he is currently spending in AAA Louisville will be beneficial for the young man from the Dominican Republic.
Hopeful would describe my thoughts, but not confident. All I can say for now is that if Volquez doesn't regain form, this could be his last season as a big league pitcher.