TAMPA, Fla. -- Through one inning and the onset of another on Friday night, it is reasonable to assume Pirates fans were rolling their eyes and general manager Neal Huntington was squirming.
Edinson Volquez, given $5 million as well as the No. 5 spot in the rotation, had allowed two runs in the first and now faced a bases-loaded, none-out situation in the second.
Volquez's game-opening ERA of 11.00 had grown to 11.70 and, besides a meaningless exhibition game, he was about to lose more credibility.
And, then, something clicked. Something significant, because Volquez went on to retire 12 of the last 13 Yankees he faced. The first two of those outs did bring in a couple of more runs, but that seemed far less significant than the fact they pointed Volquez in the right direction.
"Later in the game, I got better, with the tempo, and more compact with my delivery," Volquez beamed after his five-inning shift. "Sometimes, there's a lot of adrenaline the first two innings. After that, I shut it down, tried to make good pitches. Especially against those guys -- that's a pretty good team."
They truly were the Yankees, with manager Joe Girardi sending out his likely Opening Day lineup, with the exception of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Pitching coach Ray Searage, who after an earlier and erratic Volquez outing had said that he would "hunt the good" with him, bagged his limit Friday night.
"There's still some people who don't believe this guy's for real," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It always helps when you go out and get some good things done. We're well aware of the difference he can make if he gets to the place where is best pitcher he can be. This was a good step for him and for the club."
Volquez walked two, struck out four and near the end of his 86-pitch outing, cranked the radar up to 97 mph.
"Oh, yeah?" he grinned upon being informed of that reading. "That's pretty good."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.