Volstad lights-out in debut
Right-hander allows one run in 8 2/3 innings to beat Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- If this what the future looks like, the Marlins rotation is in incredibly capable hands.
Top-prospect Chris Volstad came as advertised, actually more so, flirting with a complete game en route to a splendid 8 2/3-inning performance. Backed by a pair of first-inning home runs from Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu, Volstad did his part to silence Los Angeles, 3-1, on Friday night in front of 49,545 at Dodger Stadium.
"You can't ask a young kid, coming into Dodger Stadium to do more," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He threw strikes. Pounded the zone. Attacked it.
"We knew that coming in, he's got great composure, great makeup. It's a good one to build on and take to the next one."
They sure will.
A native of Palm Beach Gardens, the Florida native stepped up in his first big league start in front of eight family members and friends, including his parents and brother and sister.
"This kid is special," catcher Paul Hoover said. "He obviously showed that tonight. He obviously has got good stuff. A lot of ground balls."
At age 21, Volstad is a 6-foot-7 sinkerball pitcher who possesses a 93-mph fastball.
Even though it was his first big league start, it wasn't his first win.
The 16th overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Volstad improved to 2-0 on the season, and he has been with the club for five days. Last Sunday in Colorado, on the day he was promoted from Double-A Carolina, he tossed two scoreless innings of relief against the Rockies, and he was credited with the decision.
Volstad is the third Marlin this season to go as far as 8 2/3 innings. Florida has a string of 269 straight games without a compete game, an MLB record. The 21-year-old was given an opportunity to go the distance. He was certainly aware of the drought, and admittedly, he wanted to seal the deal himself.
Pinch-hitter Delwyn Young opened the inning with a single to center. Volstad logged two groundouts, but Young advanced to second in the process. The complete game and shutout bids both ended on Russell Martin's single to center, which produced the Dodgers' only run. Volstad exited with exactly 100 pitches. Kevin Gregg picked up his 19th save, and third straight in as many games, when Jeff Kent lifted a fly ball to deep right field.
"I thought I had it," Volstad said of the complete game. "I thought that last ground ball [by Martin] was right to Hanley. I wanted to see myself do it as well. But I'll take the win in my first start. I don't want to get greedy but it would have been good to have that, for sure."
Volstad became the sixth pitcher since 1971 to earn a win as a starter and a reliever in his first two MLB appearances. The others are Doug Waechter of Tampa Bay in 2003, David Nied of Atlanta in 1992, John Farrell of the Indians in 1987, John Montefusco of the Giants in 1974 and Monty Montgomery of the Royals in 1971.
Waechter, now a teammate of Volstad, also is the last starter to log a shutout in his first start. On Sept. 3, 2003, he blanked the Mariners.
Volstad's longest Minor League stint was 7 1/3 innings at Double-A Carolina, and this was the first time he had ever come out in the ninth inning. The major reason Volstad was lifted for Gregg was because Kent was coming to the plate representing the tying run.
"We have too much respect for Jeff Kent," Gonzalez said. "We weren't going to let Jeff Kent beat the kid."
Composed from the first inning, Volstad's first fastball of the game was a 93 mph. The 6-foot-7 right-hander sailed through five innings, scattering three hits. No Dodger reached second base through eight innings.
"I said maybe two words to him after two innings maybe about two hitters," Hoover said. "I just let him do his thing. He came out one out away from a complete-game shutout. He has room for improvement, I guess."
The Marlins went back-to-back for the sixth time this season, grabbing a three-run first inning lead. The inning started with a scare, as All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was plunked above the left elbow by a 93-mph Eric Stults fastball. The count was 0-2 at the time. Ramirez immediately was looked at by assistant trainer Mike Kozak. He remained in the game and went 1-for-2 with a walk to go along with his hit-by-pitch.
Hermida's two-run homer opened the scoring, and Cantu connected on his 17th to make it 3-0 before Volstad threw a pitch.
The Marlins have now established a team record by hitting at least one home run in 13 straight games. Twice previously, the streak reached 12 games -- both last year.
Volstad also had a single in his second big league at-bat, so on the night he collected two baseballs.
"I think it's fantastic," Gonzalez said of his rookie's overall performance. "The guys were really upset there in the ninth inning when he couldn't get the shutout. He was outstanding."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.