LaRocque Gives Cardinals Valued Experience





ST. LOUIS — Starting with the arrival of Jeff Luhnow, who took the lead for the club's draft in 2005, the Cardinals have increasingly invested in player acquisition and development within the minor leagues, an approach they believe will allow them to remain competitive as broadcast rights fees flood the game and inflate payrolls.

A slight move this winter underscores the importance of the system.

The Cardinals expanded the influence of Gary LaRocque, a senior adviser for player development and special assistant to general manager John Mozeliak. LaRocque, Mozeliak said, will have greater autonomy with decisions within the system. He has overseen the assignment and hiring of the staffs for the coming season, and during the year he'll be at the affiliates, meeting with those staffs and directing development.

"This is a shift in responsibilities, but from the day-to-day standpoint the changes will be subtle," Mozeliak said.

LaRocque joined the Cardinals in 2008 as one of Mozeliak's early lieutenants. He has spent the past two seasons within the player development area of the front office, serving as an adviser to farm director John Vuch and a liaison between the minor leagues and Mozeliak. The move allowed LaRocque, 59, to revisit his roots.

LaRocque has been a frequent visitor to all of the team's affiliates, and it's that first-hand familiarity that Mozeliak wanted to utilize by increasing LaRocque's say. Many of the decisions will still be made with the input of Vuch and the rest of the front office. Mozeliak illustrated, however, that LaRocque's added responsibilities will allow him to direct promotions, releases, and other moves like changing a minor league player's position.

"We have to prove ourselves every year," LaRocque said. "It's a really, really strong group that we have in place . . . I just have to ask, How do we keep it going?"

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• The Cardinals acquired shortstop Jake Lemmerman, the Dodgers' fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, in a trade that sent Skip Schumaker to Los Angeles. Lemmerman, 23, is ticketed for Double-A Springfield and could compete for a utility role in Triple-A during spring training.

• The Cardinals signed catcher J.R. Towles to a minor league contract to add depth at his position in Triple-A.