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Return of Volquez to boost Reds' rotation

Volquez's return to boost Reds

CINCINNATI -- Without even having to swing a deal, the Reds added a former 17-game winner and All-Star to their rotation for the second half.

The much-awaited big league return of Edinson Volquez will be on Saturday against the Rockies.

"I feel great right now. I think I'm ready to go," Volquez said on Thursday before the Reds held a post-All-Star break workout at Great American Ball Park.

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Volquez, who turned 27 on July 3, has not pitched for the Reds since June 1, 2009. He had Tommy John surgery performed on his right elbow on Aug. 3, so his return is coming just under 12 months since the operation.

The time away wasn't without controversy, however. On April 20, Volquez was suspended 50 games for violation of Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy. Volquez admitted to taking prescribed medication he needed to treat infertility.

"The first couple of weeks, I felt bad about myself," said Volquez, who lost about $120,000 of his $445,000 salary for this season. "Like I said in the statement, I wasn't trying to help my career. I was trying to start a family with my wife. I have to put it in the past now. I have to move forward."

Volquez and the Reds were fortunate that he could serve the suspension concurrent with his time on the disabled list. He missed no extra games as a result, and was allowed to continue his rehabilitation with the club.

"I talked to the doctor here in Cincinnati before I got back to the Dominican," Volquez said. "When I got back to the Dominican, I talked to the other doctor and [he] gave me the prescription. The only mistake I think I made was I didn't talk to the doctor over here again. I just talked to the guy in the Dominican, and I thought that he knew what he was doing."

Volquez said he started taking the medicine sometime in December and tested positive during Spring Training. Now that he has the suspension on his record, he knows it's something he will still have to deal with going forward.

"I've already done one [test] when I was in Triple-A two weeks ago," Volquez said. "When they get you one time, they'll test you more than anybody."

Back on the mound, Volquez and his right elbow have repeatedly passed test after test as he worked his way back to the Majors.

In six rehabilitation starts at Class A Lynchburg and Triple-A Louisville, Volquez was 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA with eight walks and 28 strikeouts in 31 innings. His last four starts were with Louisville, including this past Friday against Toledo, when he allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings with three walks and nine strikeouts. While throwing 102 pitches, he didn't allow his first hit until the sixth and struck out the side in the seventh.

"It means a lot, it's like making a major trade," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Volquez's return. "He's excited, and we left him down there a little longer than he might have wanted to, and a little longer than we wanted to at the same time. But we think that was good for him."

On multiple occasions during the rehab assignment, Volquez reportedly had fastball velocity up to 98 mph. He also had the benefit of no setbacks during the whole recovery process.

"A lot of people say when you have Tommy John surgery and come back, if you work hard, you'll throw harder than you used to," Volquez said. "I hit that [98] somewhat [before], but not like now, more consistently."

The Reds tried to swing a trade for Cliff Lee from the Mariners last week, but the left-hander went to the Rangers. While Lee would have made the first-place Reds the favorites in the National League Central, the club still has a good situation in adding Volquez.

"None of us have seen what he has, but everybody is saying he's throwing as well as he ever has," said Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who will start on Friday. "It definitely gives us a little boost. It gives us options, possibly to even have someone go to the bullpen that was in the rotation. The back end of the season, with the heat and stuff, some guys come up lame. Having that extra arm is definitely going to help."

In 42 career games for the Reds, including 41 starts, Volquez is 21-8 with a 3.44 ERA, 125 walks and 253 strikeouts. He was a 17-game winner and NL All-Star in 2008, but was limited to nine starts in 2009 before being shut down.

Volquez was looking forward to helping the Reds with their second-half pennant chase.

"I'm excited. And happy, too," he said. "A lot of people can't wait to see me pitch again. I will try to do my best."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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