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Monday, April 9, 2012
Volstad unable to keep rotation's hot pace

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- Chris Volstad was the first to blink in the Chicago Cubs' starting-rotation challenge.

The tall right-hander made his Cubs debut Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers with the kind of middle-of-the-road outing that could hardly compare with what went on in the previous three games.

Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija all were impressive in their season debuts, which only raised the bar for the new Cubs at the back end of the rotation: Volstad and Paul Maholm.

Chris Volstad
Chris Volstad went five innings in his Chicago Cubs debut on Monday, getting a no-decision.
Acquired in the deal that sent Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins, Volstad’s biggest problem was his inefficiency. He threw 25 pitches in the first inning and had 78 through four innings. He lasted just five, giving up three runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

“I think on a whole today, especially the first six, seven innings, we couldn’t get strike one,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That was big, especially to that lineup, who a lot of times will give you strike one. Other than that, I think his stuff was OK. He couldn’t throw his slider for a strike so he couldn’t get a lot of swings. I think his ball was moving off the plate a lot. I think his stuff was good, but he was averaging about 20 pitches an inning.”

It was going to be hard to follow in the shadow of Samardzija and his 8 2/3-inning gem Sunday that would have been a complete game if not for Starlin Castro’s throwing error with two outs in the ninth inning.

“That first inning kind of got me; I just wasn’t in the zone enough,” Volstad said. “They were fouling off pitches and got me in a hole early. I felt I got better as the game went on and had the first inning, maybe if I kept that first inning down a little bit, maybe I could have stayed in the game. It’s something to work on.”

If an outing like Volstad’s is the worst one every time the Cubs go through the rotation, they’ll take it.

“The three games before me were awesome,” Volstad said. “You like that as a staff. You want to push each other. I was trying to go out there and do what Jeff did last night and Garza did in Game 1 and Dempster led off with. As a staff I think we’re feeling pretty good.”

Maholm now gets the chance to get the starters back to their dominating ways when he makes his Cubs debut Tuesday night. He also confirmed Monday that the Cubs starters really are feeding off each other.

“Yeah, I think that’s good for the team, for us five to push each other and try to outpitch each other,” Maholm said. “Dempster threw up a great start on Opening Day. Garza had a great start and Jeff kind of trumped everybody and went a little deeper.”

With temperatures expected to drop into the upper 40s for Tuesday’s game, Maholm will try to use the conditions to his advantage.

“I know it’s going to be cold,” Maholm said. “You have to get in on the hands and not want them to dive out over the plate. That’s the joy of pitching in Wrigley. You never know what kind of weather you’re going to get when you show up at the ballpark. In my mind I know it will be cold and I know I will be ready to go and I just want to get out there.”