What's more surprising is the fact that it was 23-year-old Yasmani Grandal, catching just his 13th big league game, who maneuvered the 29-year-old Volquez through those lapses in command and high pitch counts that doomed his previous bids for longevity.
"[Grandal] did a really good job, called a good game," Volquez said after his one-hit shutout. "I didn't have too many pitches tonight. We were on the same page, and that gave me more confidence to throw each pitch."
Grandal and Volquez both came to the Padres this offseason in the deal that sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati. Despite the fact that Grandal had not yet been drafted when Volquez had his breakout rookie season in 2008, and concedes 98 games of big league experience to the big righty, the youngster was well-prepared to help his veteran pitcher break through.
Grandal said he studied Volquez and the Astros a great deal prior to Thursday's game, though he was surprised to know the complete game was Volquez's first.
"I didn't know that." Grandal said. "I figure [former Reds catcher] Ramon [Hernandez] caught a couple of those, but I guess he didn't."
"I did a lot of research on them: I went back to the games [Volquez] threw against [the Astros] when he was in Cincinnati, and kind of saw what Ramon Hernandez was doing with him." Grandal said. "I kind of took a little bit off of that and used the same strategy."
It worked. And while it may be a small sample size, Grandal's willingness to learn seems to be working pretty often. Just ask his manager, Bud Black, who says he and his staff are impressed with the job the rookie is doing managing his pitching staff.
"Pitch-calling, game-calling, in-game adjustments, communication with the pitchers, he's done a nice job," said Black, a former pitcher. "He's also confident that he knows he has a lot to learn, and there's a lot of players that don't want to show that. But there's a willingness to learn."
Black also noted that his rookie backstop was "not one bit intimidated by anything," an important characteristic for the man charged with blocking the nasty breaking balls that can make Volquez just as grueling to catch as he to hit.
And while Grandal was always a prospect known more for his prowess at the plate than behind it, his early defensive success is no surprise to his former University of Miami teammate, Yonder Alonso.
"He's done it before," Alonso said. "It's no secret to me. I've seen it since college. He's a good catcher, and I'm sure we're going to see more from him."