"I talked to Volquez today about it," Baker said on Friday before the Reds played the Astros. "He was pretty upset that people were insinuating he was tired because of winter ball."
Baker assured Volquez that the decision to give him two days more rest had nothing to do with winter ball but everything to do with the return of right-hander Aaron Harang, who had been on the disabled list with a strained forearm since July 13.
Besides, Baker said, the handful of innings that Volquez had pitched during the winter shouldn't have taxed him one bit.
"I didn't pitch too many innings," Volquez said. "I pitched, like, eight. I pitched more innings in Spring Training than I did in winter ball."
That's why the talk has eaten at him. He understands that people might use winter ball as an explanation for why his recent outings haven't been as top shelf as his earlier outings this season had been. True, his work of late hasn't been what it was earlier, but nobody should point to tiredness as the excuse.
"It's hard to go a whole year and just be great," Baker said. "I haven't seen many do it. When you do, it's a Cy Young year."
But Volquez is crafting a season that has a Cy Young-like quality to it. Even now he remains among the National League leaders in many statistical categories, and his 13-5 record and 2.93 ERA aren't the numbers of a man who's been throwing pitches that best resemble what a hitter would see in batting practice.
Sure, he has struggled, but struggles are something he can deal with, he said. After all, he went 0-4 with a 14.31 ERA in his first Major League season and 1-6 with a 7.29 ERA in his second. So, struggles? Those first two years were struggles.
What Volquez is experiencing now are just the ups and downs of a good season. It's akin to a slump, and ballplayers go through slumps -- hitters and pitchers alike. This is his.
Yet even during those struggles -- the "real" struggles of 2005 and '06, not what he's going through now -- he never let his confidence wane. He never let doubt creep into his mind.
He hasn't let it creep in now, either, which is why the talk about his being tired from winter ball has been bothersome for him.
"I feel good," he said. "I threw a good bullpen [session] today, and I feel like I can pitch."
He has no issue with Baker's decision to start Harang on Sunday and push his next start back.
Volquez is fine with the move. It makes sense, he said, to get Harang back in the rotation as soon as possible. It's just the wild rumor about why that's nagging at him.
"I just want to work," he said. "I've got that much more time to work. But [the talk] does bother me a little."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less