Volquez relaxed as ever heading into Game 1
KANSAS CITY -- Game 1 of the World Series is kind of a big deal, but Royals right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez, preparing for his start Tuesday night against the Mets (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time), smiles the same old relaxed way.
"It's another game," said Volquez. "I don't have to do anything different than what I've been doing. I've got to stay focused in what I'm doing, especially this game, because this is a World Series game. You don't have too many chances to make a lot of mistakes in those games. So I've got to stay under control and pitch my game."
Volquez's postseason has been up and down. He yielded five hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings of a loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Then he beat the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series by giving up just two hits in six innings of a shutout victory, before giving up five runs in five innings in a 7-1 loss to the Jays in Game 5.
The results have swung, but Volquez has remained his happy-go-lucky self.
"I don't think Dominican guys get nervous, ever," Royals catcher Salvador Perez said. "He just likes to compete, have fun and do his job -- keep the ball down, use the changeup, use his breaking ball, pitch inside."
Volquez has found slightly more fastball velocity in the postseason. He is touching 97 and 98 mph. According to FanGraphs, Volquez's fastball is averaging 95.2 mph in the postseason, as opposed to 93.8 during the regular season. The Jays' Aaron Sanchez, the Mets' Steven Matz, the Cubs' Trevor Cahill and Royals teammate Chris Young have experienced greater bumps in average velocity (among pitchers with 70 or more postseason pitches), but Volquez's 1.4 mph increase is considered significant.
Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said the uptick is a testament of a clean, fundamental delivery that allows Volquez to direct his power toward home plate. At times during the regular season, he became rotational and lost power by spinning to the side.
Volquez prefers to use humor over technical explanation of his newfound velocity.
"I don't know, from the Gatorade," he said when asked for his thoughts on a reason. "A lot of energy helps me a little bit more. I think pitching the playoffs is more exciting. And everything I pitch, everything I've got, that's what I've got. I was throwing 97, 98 the other day. I don't do that very often, but I think I've still got it a little bit."
Volquez's charge against the selective Mets will be to stay in the strike zone consistently, since he has walked 12 in 16 2/3 postseason innings, with 15 strikeouts.
Eiland said Volquez's faster fastball is also a sign of a free mind. After a promising early career with the Reds, Volquez was discarded by the Padres and Dodgers in 2013, only to resurface as a competitive starter with the Pirates last year. He continued that trend when he joined the Royals this season.
"This guy's been around," Eiland said. "He's been released a couple of times, bounced around, given up on. He's got nothing to lose. He's very fortunate and grateful to be in this situation. He's coming right at you. He's not going to let this opportunity slip away, throwing caution to the wind.
"Usually when a player throws caution to the wind, you get the best out of him."