Kopp Improves With Move To Bullpen

Righty sees expected velocity spike





ST. LOUIS—A season that started with a spot on the 40-man roster and included a tough turn in the Double-A rotation could end where David Kopp thought he belonged all along.

He found a home in the bullpen.

Kopp, a second-round selection in 2007, merited a late-season promotion to the Triple-A Memphis bullpen, where he could see a few save opportunities. Kopp often joked with his coaches that they should move him to the bullpen—a suggestion that was met with little exuberance until midway through this summer. That's when Kopp shifted from starter to reliever and quickly emerged as a closer.

"It just changed it up for me," Kopp said. "I can focus pitch by pitch instead of trying to throw a good game, trying to throw seven innings scoreless, six innings scoreless. Going to the bullpen allowed me to focus more on the pitches when the pitches matter the most."

Kopp, 25, came out of Clemson during a time when the Cardinals hadn't assembled their current array of strong-armed prospects. The club nurtured him as a starter because he had four pitches, including a plus breaking ball, and the chance to throw in the mid-90s. But injuries complicated his rise as Kopp required two shoulder surgeries, including one to shave down a piece of bone that was chronically restricting or aggravating the joint.

Protected on the 40-man roster last winter, Kopp opened in the Double-A Springfield rotation and went 2-5, 7.85 in nine starts. That was when the bullpen stopped being a joke.

Kopp made his first relief appearance on July 1, with the expected uptick in velocity. He went from averaging 91-92 mph as a starter to hovering around 94-95 in relief. Moreover, he felt compelled to throw his curve harder, and it became a more effective pitch for him at 80-82 mph. He went 1-0, 1.00 in 14 relief appearances for Springfield, and then vaulted to Triple-A.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Top prospect Shelby Miller received a weeklong suspension for violating team rules in mid-August. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Miller was part of a skirmish that involved alcohol. The club tightened its conduct policy in 2010 and Miller's suspension followed the precedent.

• Matt Adams blasted past the Springfield franchise record for homers by tying and breaking the record in the same game. Adams reached the last week of August with 30 homers, one more than Colby Rasmus hit in 2007.