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Volquez named to All-Star staff

Volquez named to All-Star staff

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CINCINNATI -- Reds starter Edinson Volquez didn't learn he was an All-Star on Sunday until after he finished his six-inning start vs. the Nationals. Volquez and 28,814 fans at Great American Ball Park found out at the same time.

"When they took me out of the game, they put my name on the scoreboard," Volquez said.

The news wasn't that shocking, though.

"I had a good feeling about it," Volquez said.

As he should've. In just half a season, Volquez went from relative unknown to National League All-Star when he was named Cincinnati's lone representative at the July 15 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. finished fourth in the balloting and was not named to his 14th All-Star Game as a reserve. Only the top three outfielders are named starters.

The winner in a 6-5 Reds victory over the Nationals with six innings and three earned runs allowed, Volquez is 11-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 116 strikeouts this season. He's allowed only four home runs this season and has given up more than two earned runs in just four of his 18 starts.

"I've got my mother here. I'm going to take her to the All-Star Game," said Volquez, who finished second behind Arizona's Brandon Webb on the players' ballot. "I'm excited. This is my first full season in the big leagues, and I made the All-Star Game. Everybody has a dream. A lot of pitchers want to win the Cy Young Award or go to the All-Star Game."

The 25-year-old Volquez is a contender for the NL pitching Triple Crown. The right-hander leads the league in ERA, is second in strikeouts and is tied for third in victories. Opponents came into Sunday batting .210 against him.

"It's well deserved," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I'm glad he's going there with 11, possibly 12 [wins]. He's been a lifesaver for us."

Volquez was acquired by the Reds in a December trade that sent popular outfielder Josh Hamilton to the Rangers. The deal was criticized at the time because Volquez had been a struggling, if talented, prospect who had yet to establish himself with Texas. In parts of three big league seasons, he was 3-11 with a 7.20 ERA and began 2007 all the way back in Class A ball.

The trade has become one of the winter's best for both sides, as Hamilton, who is among league leaders in several offensive categories, was named to the American League All-Star team.

"Everybody is talking about Josh Hamilton and [whether] I'm going to face him, maybe," Volquez said. "He's a great hitter and a great player. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to throw my best stuff to him."

Volquez had a streak of 12 straight quality starts from April 22-June 20. Though that run was snapped by his previous two outings, momentum continued to gather behind the idea that Volquez should be a contender to start the All-Star Game for the NL. Webb, the league leader with 12 wins, is also a candidate, as is the Giants' Tim Lincecum.

"It would be great for me to start the game," Volquez said. "I'm not looking for a start, but if they give me the opportunity, I would."

"It all depends on how he finishes," Baker said. "We're contemplating backing him up a day. If he backs up a day, I'd say no. If he stays on where he is, it's a possibility. Being that home team in the World Series now is huge, so I'm hoping he gets the victory if he starts."

Griffey, batting .240 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs this season, is not having an All-Star-caliber season but was ranked second among NL outfielders in votes as recently as last week. The 38-year-old finished with 2,907,746 ballots cast. Griffey's drop can be attributed mostly to a surge by the Brewers' Ryan Braun, who went from fourth to first with more than two million votes in the final week. Braun had over 928,000 votes more than Griffey with 3,835,840.

The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano was the second NL outfielder with 3,353,977 votes, and his teammate, Kosuke Fukudome, was third with 2,994,935 votes, which was more than 87,000 ahead of Griffey.

Don't weep for Griffey, though. He always prefers the three days off with his family and won't have trouble organizing a vacation.

"I always have a backup plan," said Griffey, who is sixth all-time with 604 home runs. "If you can't hit a tough lefty, bunt. If you can't hit a tough righty, bunt. If you can't go to the All-Star Game, go to the Bahamas.

"I won't be there. I'll be in front of the TV ... not. It's going to be a lot of fun for [Volquez]."

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

For Cincinnati, this will be the fourth straight season it will send only one player to the Midsummer Classic. Named in 2006, Bronson Arroyo was the last Reds pitcher to go to the All-Star Game. Baker would have liked to have seen second baseman Brandon Phillips be recognized, but understood the All-Star landscape.

"When you're a second-division team, which we are now, your odds of having a whole bunch of guys on the All-Star team aren't good, anyway," Baker said before the All-Star teams were named. "I guess they figure, if you have that many All-Stars, you wouldn't be second-division. It's not right, necessarily, but that's how they figure."

That means Volquez will have the Cincinnati portion of the All-Star stage to himself.

"I said congratulations to him before today, because I knew that if he's not making it, who's going to make it?" Reds closer Francisco Cordero said. "The way he was pitching and doing his job here, he deserved to be in the All-Star Game. Before, he was Pedro Martinez. I idolized Pedro Martinez. But now he has his own stuff, and he's Edinson Volquez."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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