It's been a long journey for Peoria's Robert Stock.
Now in his fifth year in the Minors and yet to advance past Class A, Stock was moved from catcher to pitcher in 2011 and added another detour to his journey when Spring Training wrapped up in March. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound right-hander asked to stay behind in extended spring to iron out some command issues.
The 23-year-old cleaned up his mechanics and has been on track ever since, owning a 1.46 ERA and a pair of saves in 12 1/3 innings since joining the Peoria Chiefs.
The Cardinals' second-round pick in 2009 was primarily a catcher at Southern Cal but had pitched enough for scouts to be impressed with his arm. Two years later, St. Louis decided to move Stock from behind the plate to the mound and take advantage of his ability to light up a radar gun at 96 mph.
The converted pitcher said he hasn't let a fifth season in Class A turn into frustration.
"As a pitcher, no matter where you are, if you're in low A or Triple-A, what I need to work on is the same across the board," he said. "Whereas when you're a hitter, you need to see that better pitching at every level to improve. Even though I'm in low A ball, what I'm working on, I can work on at any level.
"I don't think it's difficult to transition, but I would say it's not easy to pitch, though. I still have a lot of things to work on and improve as a pitcher," he added. "Being a catcher in the past helps me as a pitcher. My knowledge as a hitter, what a hitter's approach might be, I try to utilize that."
Stock said that developing consistency is the focus of his development.
"What's been effective has been my fastball," Stock said. "I've had decent velocity. But for me, it's always been a battle every day to improve my command. When I get in trouble, it's because of the command of my pitches. That's where my focus is every day."
Stock added that he hasn't had any temptation to look back on his catching days, but he did pick up a bat in the offseason.
"My younger brother [Richard Stock] is a catcher with the Lake County Captains," he said. "In the offseason, I would hit some with him. But my total focus is on pitching. I don't even think about hitting."
Stock, who went 5-2 with a 4.56 ERA in 38 games last season with Quad Cities, said he's dedicated to pursuing his Major League dream as a pitcher, and he credited the Cardinals' coaching staff for helping him make the strides he needs to make this season.
"I have a lot of confidence in the Cardinals," Stock said. "They have a great track record of transitioning players from one position to another."
Rough start: Fort Wayne, which closed out the first half of the Midwest League season with an 18-4 record down the stretch to clinch a playoff berth, started off the second half with a 1-5 mark. The TinCaps were outscored 41-22 over those six contests and have surrendered 37 runs in their last four games.
Rough start, part II: South Bend gave up 11 runs against visiting Bowling Green in the first inning on June 26. The top of the first, which lasted 29 minutes, included five singles, a double, a triple, a homer, a hit batter, three walks, two steals, one pitching change and one error.
Beaned again: Quad Cities' Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall selection in last year's Draft, was hit by a pitch on his elbow in Peoria on June 25 and was later pulled from the game. Correa, who was placed on the 10-day DL earlier in the season after he was plunked in the wrist, was back in the lineup on June 26.
Hot Rod hot streak: Bowling Green's Taylor Guerrieri, a first-round pick by the Rays in 2011, has pitched 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. He extended his streak in a 6-3 loss against Lake County, pitching five innings before being relieved.