The right-hander was moved into the bullpen Saturday, giving him a chance to try to fix problems in his delivery. He retired only two batters in his last start, an 11-2 loss in San Francisco on Monday.
The Reds‘ rotation and middle infield are in flux heading into a pivotal week of their playoff push. They finish a weekend series against the Cubs, play three at home against Milwaukee, then head to St. Louis for their last three games this season against the second-place Cardinals.
Cincinnati led the Cardinals by four games heading into Saturday.
“That’s an important series,” injured shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. “We can put them away in that series.”
First, they have to get their rotation and infield in order.
Volquez had reconstructive elbow surgery last August and made it back ahead of schedule, returning to the mound last month. His arm is fine and his fastball is back to top speed, but his control has been inconsistent.
“That happens when you don’t pitch for nine months,” Volquez said Saturday.
He was scheduled to start the final game of a series against the Cubs on Sunday. Instead, rookie Travis Wood will take his place. Reds manager Dusty Baker said Volquez will work on his delivery in the bullpen and be available in relief.
How long Volquez stays in the bullpen will be decided by how quickly he regains his control and how right-hander Aaron Harang performs when he returns to the rotation next week. Harang has been on the disabled list since July 6 with back spasms. He’s tentatively scheduled to start against the Brewers on Tuesday.
“It depends on how (Volquez) looks and when Harang comes back, it kind of depends on who’s pitching the best, who can help us the most down the stretch,” Baker said.
The move came one day after the Reds put rookie starter Mike Leake on the 15-day disabled list with a tired shoulder. He’s expected back in September. At the moment, the rotation includes Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Wood.
The Reds have stayed in first place for the last 13 days despite injuries to Cabrera and second baseman Brandon Phillips, their two most frequent leadoff hitters this season. Phillips has a bruised right hand, hit by a pitch on Wednesday. He didn’t play Friday night in a 7-1 win over the Cubs and was out of the lineup again Saturday. He’s expected back within a few days.
“I know he’s just getting a lot of treatment,” Baker said.