MWL notes: Stock rising on the mound

Cards righty learning how to pitch after years behind the plate

Robert Stock has struck out 11 batters in 8 2/3 innings this year. (Cliff Welch/

By Curt Rallo / Special to | April 26, 2012 6:00 AM ET

Robert Stock walked into a meeting with St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and front-office brass as a catcher. He walked out of the meeting as a pitcher.

"I was in Major League camp," said Stock, a 22-year-old who was drafted in the second round of the 2009 Draft from the University of Southern California. "At the very end of camp, Matheny and some guys in the front office called me into their office, sat me down and told me that they were going to change me from a catcher to a pitcher."

Stock played both positions at USC and turned in impressive numbers wherever he played, but the organization's decision caught him off-guard.

"I didn't know it was going to happen," Stock said. "I wasn't too thrilled, because I spent so much time, including this past off-season, working on catching, not pitching. But it's been going well. I've been working hard. I have an entire Minor League Spring Training under my belt and now a month of professional pitching as well."

St. Louis has a successful history of converting position players to pitchers, including current closer Jason Motte. Cardinals farm director John Vuch said the decision was made on Stock because the organization felt he had a better shot at making the big league team as a pitcher.

"The driving force in the decision was that we saw a better chance for him to contribute in St. Louis in the role of a pitcher," Vuch said. "With what we had from our amateur scouts -- and our Minor League pitching coordinator had seen him in college and felt Robert had a good arm -- the feeling was he had the ability to progress as a pitcher."

Vuch said he and the Cardinals like what they've seen so far out of Stock, who is 1-0 with a 7.27 ERA, 11 strikeouts and six walks in six relief appearances.

"So far, he's doing pretty well," Vuch said. "His overall numbers aren't great. He gave up some runs early, but his last time out, he threw two scoreless innings with four strikeouts. His velocity is getting better. He's starting to use all of his pitches a little more. That's one of the reasons we thought he might have success as a pitcher. He had a good changeup and a good breaking pitch. That along with a good fastball gives him something to work with, as opposed to being a completely raw conversion guy who would only be able to throw fastballs."

Stock has been hitting 92 mph with his fastball. He hit 96 in college.

"I have some room for improvement, and when it's not 40 degrees, I can ramp it up a little bit," Stock said. "The changeup is my strongest pitch right now. Every time I go out there, I try and see if I can't keep my fastball down in the zone and throw my curveball for strikes."

According to Stock, he is using his insights as a catcher and a hitter to craft himself as a pitcher.

"It certainly helps having been a catcher and calling pitches for a couple of years, just to know the game," Stock said. "It's a whole other ballpark to be able to do it, but I at least have an idea of what pitches I should be able to throw to be successful."

Stock hit .241 in his three seasons in the Minors as a catcher, working his way up to Class A Advanced Palm Beach last year. At USC, he was 8-7 with a 3.38 ERA and nine saves.

"I like being a position player and hitting better, but I also enjoy pitching and helping the team," Stock said. "They're both enjoyable."

In brief

Catching on: Another former catcher turned pitcher, Jairo Diaz, shined in his last start. The Angels prospect tossed seven scoreless innings as Cedar Rapids blanked Quad Cities, 5-0. The 21-year-old right-hander bounced back from a rough debut in which he gave up six runs -- four earned -- in 4 2/3 innings.

Anticipated debut: Highly touted Cuban-born prospect Gerardo Concepcion was assigned to the Peoria Chiefs and made his debut Wednesday, allowing five runs on eight hits over five innings against Lake County. Concepcion is a 6-foot-2 left-hander who signed a five-year Major League contract with the Cubs for $12 million. The 18-year-old signed in March and pitched briefly in extended spring training. Concepcion won Cuban National Series rookie of the year honors last season with a 10-3 record an a 3.36 ERA.

Homer drought: The South Bend Silver Hawks ended a 15-game (516 at-bat) home run drought with a bang on April 21. Bobby Stone hit a solo homer and Marc Bourgeois belted a grand slam to allow the Hawks to break out their first home run trots of the season.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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