Thriving at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco is one thing. Thriving in the Majors, even against a Kansas City club that is headed toward 100-plus losses, is something else. The Royals, taking out some frustration in what has been a dismal season for them, jumped on Volquez early and cruised to a 17-8 victory Sunday afternoon, preventing a Texas sweep of the four-game series.
The 22-year-old Volquez, who has turned some heads in the organization with his array of pitches, worked a scoreless first on six pitches. But Kansas City received a three-run homer from Angel Berroa in the second and then knocked out the Rangers right-hander with a five-run rally in the third.
It wasn't pretty after Denny Hocking's hit-and-run single left men at first and third in a 3-1 game. Volquez walked Terrence Long to load the bases and then walked Matt Stairs to force in a run. Emil Brown doubled home two runs, Mark Teahen doubled home two more and Volquez walked off the mound with a far worse outing than he had last Tuesday in his Major League debut. In two-plus innings, he allowed six hits and eight earned runs.
When he appeared against the White Sox at Ameriquest Field in his debut, Volquez went 4 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and five runs. The Rangers were hopeful the second time around would be smoother, but instead it got rockier against the generally anemic Royals.
After the game, Volquez watched the video of his outing and said he thought the root of his problem may have been that he was tipping his pitches by the way he opened and closed the glove hand.
"I saw it," Volquez said. "I think they got my pitches."
Nerves, Volquez said, weren't a problem.
"Not today," Volquez said. "I felt more comfortable in my second game. My first game, I was a little bit [nervous] in the first inning. But I didn't feel anything bad out there today."
Rangers' pitching coach Orel Hershiser doesn't see any signs of Volquez being overwhelmed by the Major League spotlight.
"His face is awesome, he's relaxed, he's concentrating on what he needs to do," Hershiser said. "He's just not executing yet. He's not even close to being overwhelmed. He's underwhelmed, if anything. I think he'll do just fine."
Because they have an off-day on Thursday, the Rangers could choose to bypass Volquez the next time through the rotation. With left-hander C.J. Wilson on his way back from the Minors, manager Buck Showalter has plenty of starting options.
Volquez's normal day to start would be Saturday.
"It could be C.J. or Kam [Loe], or Edison," Showalter said.
Rangers starters had been on a roll prior to Sunday's game, compiling an 8-2 record and a 2.67 ERA over a 13-game span.
"Edison had a real crisp first inning, but I think he's learning the consistency level that you need here with command of your pitches," Showalter said. "He made some mistakes. Major League hitters look for a lot of patterns in the things you are doing on the mound. There are a lot of guys with good stuff up here and Edison is going to be one of those. The amount of success he has up here will be dictated by how he grasps the rest of it."
After Volquez struggled, the Rangers' bullpen didn't have any success either. Steve Karsay, Erasmo Ramirez and Brian Shouse all had tough outings as the Royals racked up 18 hits.
The Rangers pecked away in the late going, but by then the Royals had it well under control. Michael Young took another baby step toward a possible batting title with a 3-for-4 day, and Gerald Laird went 2-for-4 with a double and homer after getting a start behind the plate. Laird finished the game in right field, but Showalter said that's not a sneak preview of coming attractions. Showalter moved Mark DeRosa from right field to shortstop because he wanted to get Young some rest in the blowout. That created the temporary need for a right fielder.
Volquez's future may be bright, but the sudden transition from Minor Leaguer to Major Leaguer is challenging.
"He had some trouble after the first inning getting the changeup and breaking ball over," Showalter said. "When that happens, no matter how hard you can throw the fastball, it's going to be difficult."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.