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Pirates notebook: Volquez focused on process, not poor results

| Saturday, March 15, 2014, 6:03 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez delivers to the plate against the Rays Saturday, March 15, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez delivers to the plate against the Rays Saturday, March 15, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Vin Mazzaro delivers to the plate against the Rays Saturday, March 15, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla. Mazzaro struck out the side in his inning of relief.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Russell Martin talks with pitcher Edinson Volquez between batters against the Rays Saturday, March 15, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON , Fla. — Seeing is believing for Edinson Volquez.

In the McKechnie Field clubhouse this spring, the Pirates' coaching staff has shown Volquez his 2008 mechanics vs. his 2013 throwing motion on a split screen in the video room.

In 2008, Volquez was a National League All-Star as a rookie.

In 2013, Volquez had the highest ERA in baseball among qualifiers (5.71), despite pitching at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is trying to get Volquez back to his 2008 delivery when he had a more direct line to home plate, which helped his command. Too often since his Tommy John surgery in 2009, Volquez has opened up his front side too early in his delivery.

While the numbers were once again poor vs. the Rays on Saturday — Volquez allowed five hits, two walks, four runs (two earned) over 3 13 innings — the right-hander said he is feeling more comfortable with the delivery change.

“The numbers don't look good, but the process is coming along really good right now,” Volquez said. “Like (Saturday) I felt really good with my line to the plate. The first couple games I kind of flew open. The front side was open. Before (Saturday's game) we worked in the bullpen. It's pretty close.”

While they are just spring training stats, they are ugly. Volquez has allowed 14 hits, 13 runs (11 earned) and five walks in nine spring innings for a staff-worst 11.00 ERA.

Throughout the spring, throughout Saturday, Volquez's fastball command has been spotty.

If Volquez can more often throw strike one, batters will be more susceptible to his quality changeup. Tampa Bay's Matt Joyce swung and missed at the changeup twice for a strikeout in the first inning, one of four strikeouts for Volquez.

“The consistency is the challenging part right now,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “You see some nice sequences. The completeness of it is not taking place. He's staying positive, working hard. We are still very optimistic.”

Volquez was thought to be the favorite to earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation entering the spring.

Said Volquez: “I'm trying to be the guy I was in 2008.”

He said it

Has Volquez lost any ground in a bid for a rotation spot?

“No,” Hurdle said. “I don't have them seeded.”

Locke update

Hurdle said Pirates left-handed pitcher Jeff Locke was scheduled to throw a bullpen Saturday but did not have an immediate update on the throwing session. Locke (oblique) said earlier in the week he had not had any setbacks and the decision to halt his throwing was a precautionary one.

Around the horn

Charlie Morton threw five innings against the Yankees' Triple-A team Saturday. He allowed three hits and one run. He struck out four … Mark Melancon allowed a run on two hits in one inning against the Double-A Yankees.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib

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