Volquez – who had logged 225 1/3 innings since departing Bakersfield in mid-2005 – was sent back to the High-A club to open his 2007 campaign.
Four teams and 1,837 miles later, Volquez found himself right back in the Major Leagues, where he has posted a 2-0 record with a 2.45 ERA in two starts this season.
The Rangers chose to send Volquez to Bakersfield out of spring training in an effort to fix his mechanics, improve his fastball and curveball command, and to become a more mature player mentally. The plan got off to an inauspicious start, as Volquez gave up 28 earned runs and walked 20 batters in only 35 1/3 innings with the Blaze. The right-hander was also tossed from one game after arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire.
Regardless of his statistics, Volquez was moved up to Double-A Frisco, where he first broke out as a big time prospect in the summer of 2005. The Dominican hurler posted an 8-1 record with a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts for the Frisco RoughRiders. He held opposing hitters to just a .212 batting average and issued only 19 free passes in 58.1 innings. More importantly, Volquez was beginning to show the improvement the Rangers had hoped to see from him.
"I'm starting to figure out how to throw strikes with my mechanics," said Volquez after he joined Double-A Frisco. "I used to step back, but now my first step of my windup is on the side. It is working better now."
|Volquez was virtually unhittable in Triple-A.|
"We're more pleased with the things you don't see," said Adair of Volquez's progress. "He has matured, he's learning how to process things, and he is learning how to think a lot more clearly in competition."
Volquez earned a late-season promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he appeared to put an exclamation point on his eventful 2007 minor league season. The 24-year-old made eight starts with the RedHawks and went 6-1 with a paltry 1.41 earned run average. He tossed 51 innings and surrendered only 25 hits (.146 BAA), walked 21 and struck out 66.
One of the keys to Volquez's Triple-A success was the improved command of his fastball. Another key was the development of his curveball as a legitimate strikeout pitch, giving Volquez three quality offerings.
"I can tell you right now my curveball is a lot better," said Volquez when he was with the RedHawks. "It got better and better during my last four games with Frisco."
The dominant performance gave the hard-throwing right-hander a third crack at the big leagues. In his first two tries, Volquez combined for a 1-10 record and a 9.20 ERA. But because of his improved command and maturity level, Volquez's 2007 season has been much different. With credit to the Texas Rangers' player development team and Volquez himself, the young hurler finally looks like he belongs in a Major League uniform.
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