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05/23/11 9:29 PM ET

Reds option struggling Volquez to Triple-A

Club calls up slugger Frazier, lefty Maloney, options Smith

PHILADELPHIA -- It's not often that a team's ace and Opening Day starter gets sent down to the Minors only a couple of months into the season.

But that's exactly what happened on Monday with the Reds, who optioned starting pitcher and 2008 All-Star Edinson Volquez to Triple-A Louisville as part of a bevy of moves made by the club.

Reliever Jordan Smith was also optioned to Louisville. Infielder-outfielder Todd Frazier and lefty pitcher Matt Maloney were called up from Louisville. Lefty reliever Daniel Ray Herrera, who was at Louisville also, was claimed off waivers by the Brewers.

Volquez was called into manager Dusty Baker's office Monday afternoon and had an extended closed-door meeting with Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price. Volquez declined to speak to reporters following the demotion.

"He took it like a man, and took it to go down there and get himself right," Baker said of Volquez. "That's why we're doing it. It's going to be hard for all the way to win if we don't have a sharp Volquez. This is a temporary setback. Sometimes in this game, or in life period, you have to take a step back to go two or three steps forward. We just felt the time is now. We still have three and a half months to come back and be Volquez. There are a lot of ballgames left. You don't want to do it any later. You don't want his confidence down. You don't want your team's confidence down. You don't want your bullpen over-pitched."

The decision to send down Volquez was not stunning considering how he had struggled with inconsistency and command most of the season. The right-hander was 3-2 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts. In 51 innings, he allowed 47 hits and 38 walks with 53 strikeouts.

First-inning woes often buried Volquez and the Reds in early holes. He owns an 18.00 ERA with 20 runs allowed in the first inning. Most of the time, he recovered to have solid outings the rest of the way but high first-inning pitch counts limited his ability to pitch deep into games. There were no starts that lasted more than six innings this season.

It all culminated on Sunday when during a 12-4 loss to the Indians, Volquez gave up seven runs (six earned) with seven hits, four walks, one hit batter and three strikeouts.

"He's going to go down and work on things and be back," Baker said. "It's hard to work on things at the big league level with the pressure to win games and what's at stake."

After the game, Volquez made a pointed comment about his lineup.

"I think everybody has to step up and start getting some runs," Volquez said on Sunday. "The last five games, we've scored how many runs? Thirteen in five games? It's not the way we were playing last year. We're better than that."

Baker heard about what Volquez said but it appeared not be a factor in the demotion.

"I didn't even talk to him about that," Baker said. "I just talked about what he's got to do when he got sent down. I know Volky. People say things. I've said things. It was a situation where I'm sure he was extremely frustrated. I will address it at some point in time. Now is not the time."

Volquez, 27, was acquired in the much-ballyhooed December 2007 trade that sent outfielder Josh Hamilton to the Rangers. Volquez immediately delivered by going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 33 games for Cincinnati in 2008. He earned his first and only spot on the National League All-Star team that season.

The 2009 season was mostly wiped out when Volquez needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in August of that year. During his rehabilitation early in the 2010 season, he was handed a 50-game suspension for testing positive to a substance that violated the Major League policy on performance enhancing drugs. He was allowed to serve the punishment while on the disabled list.

Volquez was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA over 12 starts last season when he returned after the All-Star break. He had a 1.95 ERA over his final four regular-season starts, which earned him the playoff opener vs. the Phillies. However, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings with four runs allowed.

On January 31, Volquez signed a one-year contract worth $1.625 million with the Reds to avoid arbitration. In a move he might regret in hindsight, he turned down a multi-year contract offer from Cincinnati, hoping a successful 2011 season would provide a more substantial offer next winter.

Early in Spring Training, Volquez was named by Baker as the club's Opening Day starter. An unexpected setback came when he missed a couple of spring starts because of a work visa issue.

The Reds will have to add a starting pitcher on the roster to take Volquez's spot on Friday at Atlanta. The candidates appear to be right-hander Mike Leake, who started the season in the rotation but was recently sent down, and Chad Reineke, who is pitching well for Louisville. Leake's outing for Louisville was shortened to two innings on Monday, which could be an indicator that he will return and start for the Reds.

Herrera was moved off the 40-man roster and exposed to waivers with the idea of bringing up lefty Dontrelle Willis from Louisville. But, Willis was placed on the disabled list Monday with a groin injury.

"Bad timing, for him and us," Baker said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.