ST. LOUIS -- Having returned to the field earlier this week after a short stint on the disabled list, Zack Cox is now back at work trying to make a mechanical change in his swing, a change that the organization believes will pull Cox out of his early-season offensive woes.
Cox missed 12 days after being hit in the head with a pitch in a game on May 30. At the time, the 2010 first-round Draft pick was hitting just .209 through 50 games.
The organization expected a learning curve all along, given that Cox made the jump to Triple-A after just one full season in the Minors. But after combining to hit .306 at High-A and Double-A in 2011, this much of a production dip wasn't necessarily foreseen.
The Cardinals believe Cox will find some relief once he eliminates a particular head movement that became a part of his swing during Cox's days at the University of Arkansas. Work to remove the mechanical flaw began at the end of last season, and farm director John Vuch said that the Triple-A staff was beginning to make additional progress with Cox just before he went down.
That work has since resumed.
"One year at Arkansas he hit for power and not for average. This [head movement] was added and was more designed to help him hit for average," Vuch said. "He does make more contact that way, but it's not necessarily good contact. He's been very receptive to what we're trying to work on with hitting. It's not like he's been resistant. But it's not something that happens overnight."
Cox has four hits in his 13 at-bats since coming off the DL. Cox is ranked by MLB.com as the organization's sixth-best prospect.
Draft pick Piscotty signs deal with Cards
ST. LOUIS -- It might take Stephen Piscotty a little while to get used to the summer heat in St. Louis, but the Cardinals' compensation-round pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft was happy to sweat it out on the field at Busch Stadium on Saturday morning.
Piscotty, a Stanford product and 36th overall pick, signed with the Cardinals on Saturday. The deadline for Draft picks to sign isn't until July 13, but Piscotty said he wanted to get the deal done quickly.
"Obviously, sometimes it's tough to wait real long to start," Piscotty said. "I'm very excited about this opportunity, and I can't wait for my first game and stuff. There's just a lot of excitement going on in my life right now."
Piscotty will soon head to Davenport, Iowa, to join the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Cardinals' Class A affiliate. Having pitched and played both infield and outfield at Stanford, Piscotty will play third base for Quad Cities.
Piscotty wasn't only in town to sign some papers. He took batting practice on the field with the Cardinals before Game 2 of a three-game series against Kansas City, as well.
"The first round was a little nerve-wracking, but I settled down and had some fun in there," Piscotty said.
A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2012, Piscotty hit .329 with a team-high 56 RBIs. He also led Stanford with 30 walks. Piscotty said he's always been aggressive early in counts, but learned to be more patient at the plate this past season while drawing more walks.
"Basically just try to hit the ball hard on a line somewhere," Piscotty said when asked about his hitting style. "When I get lucky and miss under it, the ball goes out of the park. My biggest thing is not striking out, seeing pitches and putting the ball in play and having good at-bats. I'm not focused on any one thing really, just having a good at-bat."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was onhand during Piscotty's batting-practice session, and was impressed not only with Piscotty's compact swing, but also his level of maturity. Matheny said he also noticed the same quality in the Cardinals' second-rounder, Carson Kelly, who signed and hit with the Cardinals on Friday.
"It has a lot to do with how you carry yourself," Matheny said. "To see some kids that are pretty focused, that really helps their odds."
A day after the Cardinals' loss ended on a call at the plate, manager Mike Matheny expressed no consternation over the split-second ruling by home-plate umpire Alan Porter. In fact, Matheny, who maintains that replays appear inconclusive to him, said it was the call he would expect.
"You have to look at it from multiple angles, and we're watching it slow," Matheny said. "You can't expect anything better than what he's seeing in real life. I know as a catcher, I see he has the plate blocked. If there is contact made and he comes up with the ball, you're out. That's been baseball forever. He did a nice job blocking the plate. If he hit his leg like he did and they called him safe, even though he tagged him high, Ned [Royals manager Yost] is going to go ballistic and so would I."
Tyler Greene was thrown out trying to advance to home after a pair of errant throws by Royals infielders allowed him to move from first to third. Had he scored, the run would have tied the game.
Center fielder Jon Jay hit off soft toss for the second straight day on Saturday. The plan is to have him take some batting practice swings in the indoor cage on Sunday. That would be a first for Jay since he went on the disabled list with a right shoulder sprain on May 16.
After sitting until a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance on Friday, Rafael Furcal returned to the lineup on Saturday. Matheny said he is considering giving Furcal another off-day on Sunday. Catcher Yadier Molina is also likely to be out of the lineup in the series finale.
The Cardinals still expect Skip Schumaker (right hamstring strain) to rejoin the team in Detroit, where the club opens a three-game series on Tuesday. Matt Carpenter (right oblique strain) is also on target to join the club on the road, though likely a few days after Schumaker. Both players are currently taking part in rehab assignments with Triple-A Memphis.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.