Volquez looks stellar in debut, Reds in good shape?

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The Reds, as a franchise, have enjoyed quite a breakout season.  Usually an afterthought by mid-June, they currently hold a half-game lead in the National League Central over the heavily favored Cardinals.  To boot, they’re even selling out games at Great American Ballpark in July.

Drew Stubbs has developed into a multi-talented threat at the top of the lineup with 17 stolen bases, 13 home runs and 46 RBI in 300 at-bats, Jay Bruce is finally showing better plate discipline, Joey Votto is leading all National Leaguers in OPS and rookie Mike Leake is 6-1 with a 3.53 ERA over his first 17 big league starts.  Now let’s add Edinson Volquez to the mix.

Volquez underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in August of 2009 and has spent the last year or so rehabbing.  On Saturday night in Cincinnati he made his 2010 debut against the Rockies and absolutely shut them down

Volquez tossed six strong innings and allowed only one earned run as the Reds snagged an 8-1 victory and held off the hard-charging Cards for one more day.  He struck out nine batters, allowed only three hits and issued only two walks.

It should come as no surprise, really, that Volquez looked so dominant.  He was excellent on a four-game rehab assignment prior to Saturday’s big debut, and he posted a 3.21 ERA and 201 strikeouts over 196 innings back in 2008, his first year with the Reds.  Now he’ll look to lift the club to its first playoff berth since 1995.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.