Volstad working on lengthy scoreless innings streak

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Marlins right-hander Chris Volstad opened the 2010 season firmly entrenched in the club’s starting rotation.  But a rough April and a brutal July saw to his demotion to Triple-A New Orleans before the month of August.

He doesn’t look like the same pitcher now.

Volstad fired 6 2/3 shutout innings on Saturday against the Brewers and tossed a complete-game shutout last week against the Cardinals.  He’s up to 15 2/3 straight scoreless innings and, according to the Palm Beach Post, is now 7-1 with a 4.44 ERA since his return to the big leagues in late August.

“Something clicked in him,’ manager Edwin Rodriguez. “It could be
his release point. It could be confidence in his pitches, because pretty
much he has the same stuff that he had earlier in the year. Something is
working for him now and he feels very confident and attacking hitters.”

The 6-foot-8 righty was selected in the first round of the 2005 draft.  He is slowly living up to the hype.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉