Cardinals Take It Slow With Cox, Miller

Blue chip prospects start in high Class A





ST. LOUIS—Despite initial consideration that both Zack Cox and Shelby Miller could leapfrog high Class A Palm Beach, the Cardinals planted both of their top prospects in the Florida State League, believing a conservative assignment will help them bloom best.

"There were definitely people on both sides of the decision, and both made their points," farm director John Vuch said about the debate. "The conservative approach has won out, for now. Worst-case scenario, we decided, is they dominate for a month and then we promote them."

Cox, a first-round pick in 2010, and Miller, a first-round pick in 2009, were off to strong starts with Palm Beach. Miller, a 20-year-old righthander, was 0-1, 2.55 with 28 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings over three starts—the loss came on an unearned run. Cox, a 22-year-old third baseman, had five multi-hit games in an eight-game stretch to raise his batting line to .317/.358/.333 with 18 singles and one double.

The Cardinals purposefully adopted an aggressive promotion approach in their system for the past few seasons, a policy based in part on depth. Vuch, entering his first season as farm director, said some of the promotions were necessitated by a lack of depth in the organization, some of which was created by a series of trades in 2009. Openings at the higher levels forced the team to speed up the progress of some prospects. The club expects Miller to climb to Double-A Springfield at some point this season. Being part of a six-man rotation in Palm Beach buys him an extra day for a teaching bullpen to refine his stuff for that next level. Cox, likewise, could vault to Double-A this season depending on performance—not on need.

"We had some guys who moved quickly and there was a need to have them move quickly," Vuch said. "Now we have the luxury of having guys stay at that level, get work at that level and even repeat a level for development."

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Injuries abound at Triple-A Memphis. Outfielder Shane Robinson required surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone, an injury caused by a collision with teammate Andrew Brown. Brown missed time with a concussion. Reliever Adam Reifer was lost for the season when he tore a knee ligament trying to field a bunt.

• A year removed from Tommy John surgery, lefthander Sam Freeman returned to an active roster in mid-April. Freeman, a reliever, was able to regain his velocity after a slow start in spring and could soon return to the Double-A bullpen.