Aaron Harang has been Cincinnati’s starter on Opening Day in each of the past five seasons, but he’s in San Diego now and manager Dusty Baker announced that Edinson Volquez will get the Game 1 assignment this year.
Volquez is sort of an odd pick, because he missed most of last season while coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery and was hardly the Reds’ best starter when healthy, going 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 12 starts. Bronson Arroyo is the veteran of the rotation and went 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 33 starts, and Johnny Cueto was the best of the young guys with a 12-7 record and 3.64 ERA in 31 starts.
Arroyo will follow Volquez and Cueto will get the nod in Game 3, with Baker explaining the ordering by saying:
You want to go hard, soft, hard. You want to break up Cueto and Volquez so they don’t go out and out radar gun each other.
First of all, “you want to go hard, soft, hard” is the leader in the clubhouse for best out-of-context quote of spring training. Secondly, that doesn’t explain why Volquez is ahead of Cueto, although Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes:
As for the hoopla that surrounds the opener, Baker felt Volquez was equipped to handle it since nothing really bothers him. More importantly, he felt Volquez could handle facing the other club’s No. 1 starters regularly.
Which would be fine, except starting on Opening Day doesn’t mean Volquez will be facing other No. 1 starters throughout the season. Because of off days, injuries, and other factors those matchups become more or less random within a couple weeks.