PITTSBURGH -- It’s somehow fitting that the last member of the Pirates’ regular starting rotation to get a start in 2014 is the one the team turns to first in the postseason.
Edinson Volquez left spring training as the fifth man in a rotation that only needed four for the first week. He saw his first action in a Pirates uniform in relief. Now, in a season when the Pirates’ leading hitter -- Josh Harrison -- turned out to be the player many considered the last to make the team's 25-man roster, Volquez will be taking the mound as the starter for the National League Wild Card game at PNC Park.
“My numbers in Florida, I was still struggling,” Volquez said. “But people who know about baseball knew I was very close. I made adjustments and the last four or five months have been good.”
In fact, Volquez has been good enough to lead the Pirates in wins (13), earned run average (3.04), innings (192.2) and quality starts (19) for the season.
The best part of Volquez’s season may be that he has continued to get better. In the month of September, his ERA of 1.08 was second in the major leagues among starters, behind only Jake Arrietta of the Cubs and ahead of Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals.
Given that Pirates management was maligned for signing Volquez in the off-season, this development was unexpected. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle credited Volquez with being willing to make the changes necessary to reverse the fortunes of last season, when he was 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA with San Diego and Los Angeles.
“It helped that Edinson came in with his eyes and ears open,” Hurdle said. “He came to mini-camp and got immediate feedback. That’s the kind of player we’re looking for: one with an accelerated skill set that is hungry. We can dig into that hunger aspect.”
It turned out to be a good match. And Volquez had seen the combination work before with the Pirates.
“(Francisco Liriano) is one of my best friends,” Volquez said. “I was looking for a home, and he had signed here. They fixed (him), and he’s better.
“The Pirates gave me an opportunity. My delivery to the plate was off, my heads and my hands. They’ve been working with me all year.”
Another change for Volquez was his approach.
“I used to be a strikeout guy,” said Volquez. “But now I want to stay in the game longer and I’m more of a contact guy. I just pitch my game and be myself. Now I’m here and pitching the biggest game of the whole season."