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02/17/11 3:45 PM EST

Willis returns to Reds camp after wife gives birth

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Pitcher Dontrelle Willis was back in camp after he missed the Reds' first workout for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday when his wife gave birth. Willis welcomed a baby girl and said all went well.

Reds manager Dusty Baker has a connection with Willis through his wife, who grew up around Willis' mother and aunt in San Francisco and knew the left-handed pitcher when he was little.

"My wife said he didn't talk much. Well, he's talking now," Baker said.

The Reds signed Willis, a former All-Star starter, to a Minor League contract in November to see if he can make the club as a reliever. Baker got a recommendation from friend and former Major League pitcher Ray Burris, who works for the Tigers. That was despite Willis struggling mightily in Detroit while playing under a three-year, $29 million contract. He posted a 6.86 ERA from 2008-10 and missed some time with what that club termed an anxiety disorder.

"There's nothing wrong with him physically. There's nothing wrong with him mentally as other people want to think," Baker said. "He just needs somebody to believe in him and give him an opportunity. That's what I've been best at in my career is giving guys the opportunity to excel without bringing their past into the present, even though I'm aware of what their past is."

Volquez arrives in camp ready to go

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Flight delays in the Dominican Republic prevented pitcher Edinson Volquez from being present on Wednesday's first day of Reds Spring Training. But an ever-smiling Volquez was in camp on Thursday and ready to go.

As Volquez unpacked boxes and playfully whacked teammate Juan Francisco in the head with one of his sneakers, he also realized this would be an important season. He is taking a personal gamble with his career after he signed a one-year, $1.625 million contract on Jan. 31 to avoid arbitration despite getting a four-year offer.

"I can show them I can do more than what I did the last two years," Volquez said.

Volquez indicated his offer was in the lower $20 million range, which was less than the four-year, $27 million deal teammate Johnny Cueto signed last month.

"If I pitch good this year, I can get more than that for four years," Volquez said.

Of course, there is also a sizable risk lurking for the right-handed pitcher who missed most of 2008 and half of 2009 with an elbow injury. He had Tommy John surgery on his elbow in August '09. If there is a setback or a down season, he could lose money.

"You never know. We'll see," Volquez said of the risk. "I talked with my family about it. My mom said, 'Do what you want to do. It's your career. If you feel good with it, go forward.'"

Volquez was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA over 12 starts last season after his return from rehabilitation in mid-July. He won 17 games in 2008 and became a first-time All-Star. Saying he feels 100 percent, Volquez pitched two innings without issue recently at the club's Dominican academy.

The 27-year-old Volquez is optimistic his arm will allow him to have a strong year.

"I think I'm in better shape and everything is good," he said. "Everything was good last year, too. My arm was strong. I feel the same way right now."

Baker weighs in on Pujols' contract situation

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols' deadline for a contract extension expired Wednesday, it put his long-term future in flux. Obviously, Reds manager Dusty Baker wouldn't be too sad to see Pujols depart St. Louis, especially since the Reds play the rival Cardinals up to 18 games per season.

"Would I care eventually to be watching him on TV with another team? Yeah. Come on, Albert," Baker said as he laughed. "Preferably [he goes to] another league and then hope we don't play them in Interleague. I've seen plenty of Albert on my last two teams. I've seen more of Albert than anybody."

Pujols is in the final season of an eight-year, $111 million contract.

"When you say, 'Who should be one of the highest-paid, top-three guys in baseball?' You've got to mention Albert," Baker said. "I don't believe in renegotiating, but if there's one guy that could have renegotiated in that period of time, it could have been Albert. You never heard him mention what other guys were making. He just fulfilled his contract until this point."

Worth noting

Among the arrivals to camp on Thursday were right fielder Jay Bruce and center fielder Drew Stubbs. The full-squad report day is Saturday.

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.