Tweak Makes Big Difference For Cox

Third baseman surged in the second half





ST. LOUIS—After a slow start to his first taste of Double-A, first-round pick Zack Cox had a second-half surge that featured improvement in all of his stats.
All it took was becoming more upright.

Cox, the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft, hit .335/.388/.500 in the second half of the season with Double-A Springfield after he and coaches worked to correct his stance at the plate. Cox had been bending at the waist and foiling his ability to get to inside pitches. Hitting coach Phil Wellman saw the hole in Cox's swing while throwing him soft toss, and figured if he could tie up the lefthanded-hitting Cox with a lob inside, a pitcher could certainly do the same with a fastball.

"When they find a weakness they're able to exploit it a little bit more at this level," Wellman explained during the season. "If you have a flaw, they will use it."

After a promotion from high Class A Palm Beach, Cox struggled in his first full month at Springfield, batting .180/.239/.250 with 25 strikeouts in 100 at-bats during June. He had fallen in the habit of bending to increase his reach to the outside portion of the plate, where he had grown accustomed to being pitched. Double-A opponents started firing inside, and Cox couldn't clear his body to get access to that side of the strike zone.

Such lessons greeted Cox throughout his time at Double-A. In the field, he concentrated on his footwork at third base, which included modifying a hop he had while each pitch was being delivered.

Cox could return to Double-A at the beginning of 2012. His second-half surge buoyed his line to .306/.363/.434 in his first full season in pro ball and positions him for Triple-A before his second option year ends.

"I never felt overwhelmed," Cox said about his turn in Double-A.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• The first three candidates the Cardinals interviewed to replace retired manager Tony La Russa all had ties to the organization's minor league system: Chris Maloney, the Triple-A Memphis manager, had spent 17 years in the system as a coach and manager; Joe McEwing was a Cardinals draft pick who played seven years in the minors before his debut; and Mike Matheny, a Gold Glove-winning catcher, had recently spent time as a special instructor.

• Among the players eligible to become minor league free agents this season is Daryl Jones, who was the organization's 2008 player of the year and top-rated position player. Jones has struggled since with knee troubles, and he finished the year in Springfield hitting .260/.360/.400 in 100 games between Double- and Triple-A.