Cubs' Volstad can't shake old habits

ATLANTA -- Different month, same old results for Chris Volstad, who was rocked in his return to the Chicago Cubs in exactly the same fashion he was before he left.

Volstad pronounced himself a changed man, but the only thing that looked different Tuesday since he last pitched for the Cubs in May were his pants legs pulled up high to expose his socks.

Volstad appeared to be cruising along nicely Tuesday until the fifth inning, when a single and Darwin Barney's indecision on a ground ball opened the door for disaster. Before his day was done, Volstad would go on to give up five runs in the inning and six on the night.

“Not much has changed, obviously,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Another bad inning. There was still some hard contact going on before that with the stuff and the location so it wasn’t all that good anyway. The ball wasn’t down and it didn’t seem like anything was sinking very good.”

Volstad’s issues were identical to what he had been doing earlier in the season. He has no problem compiling scoreless innings but at some point it all starts to get away from him in a rush.

What seemed to irk Sveum Tuesday night, though, was the fact that Volstad elected to go off the script.

“He didn’t really pitch to the gameplan so that was a little bit discouraging,” Sveum said. “[Catcher Steve] Clevenger got shook off a lot for some reason. Another combination of a lot of things he has to learn to work on.”

Volstad didn’t see it exactly how Sveum did.

“I think I shook more in the other innings than I did in the fifth,” Volstad said. “For the most part we were right there on the same page.”

On Monday Volstad deemed his problems mental ones that he had overcome, and even went as far to say that how he felt earlier in the season compared to how he felt now were “night and day.”

Actually it has just remained night and has so for a year now. On July 10 it will be exactly one year since his last big-league victory a triumph over the Houston Astros when he was with the then Florida Marlins. He has made 20 starts since then and has gone 0-11.

He claims the losing streak isn’t a burden any longer, but he admitted it did bother him at one point.

“I’ll keep moving forward,” said Volstad, who is now 0-7 as a member of the Cubs with a 7.94 ERA. “It’s definitely a learning process and getting back out there was good but I think it’s a matter of me trying to be too perfect and too fine and trying to be better than I have to be. Nobody is perfect so how can I expect myself to be?”

The Cubs had been planning to use the right-hander for two starts until an injured Ryan Dempster rejoined the rotation when the second half begins. The hope was that he could show that he was ready to take over a permanent rotation spot if and when guys like Dempster and Matt Garza are traded later this month.

At the present time they have no rotation option they are comfortable with. Randy Wells couldn’t find the strike zone when he was given the chance to start and Volstad’s problems have been obvious. There is also Casey Coleman, who was sent down to get Volstad back up.

“We’ll run him out there again as of now,” Sveum said. “We don’t really have any other options. He’s got to stick to a gameplan and trust Clevenger back there as much as anything.”