Zack Cox battling for continued improvement with Cardinals organization

LITTLE ROCK ( - Some call it a slump. Zack Cox calls it baseball.

Cox, the former Arkansas Razorback and 2010 St. Louis Cardinals first-round pick, has seen his batting average drop to .278 since being called up to the organization's AA affiliate Springfield Cardinals. It's not where Cox, who is in the state this week for games against the Arkansas Travelers and Northwest Arkansas Naturals, would like to see his average, but he said he's not dwelling on the dip.

"I don't believe in slumps," Cox said. "It's baseball and everyone will have those times when they're playing the way they want to and the times when they aren't."

Cox wrapped up a series against the Travelers on Wednesday by going 2-for-4 in an 8-1 victory. He had a pair of doubles and scored a run, a performance he would like to see carry over as Springfield visits the Naturals for games tonight, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

What Cox did Wednesday is the sort of performance he'd grown accustomed to in high school and college. That success hasn't been as easy to come by in the pros for Cox, who is also seeing increased emphasis placed on his fielding ability. Cox has been working at third and is hoping to improve his reaction speed at the position.

"I'm trying to get better defensively," Cox said. "I have to work on my anticipation and my first step toward the play."

Cox, who is in his third week with Springfield, remains confident in his ability to bounce back. He said he strives to maintain his composure in regards to his performance and uses each opportunity he gets to play or practice to show a consistent, strong effort.

"The only thing I can control is how much I get out of my time on the field," Cox said. "I'm going to keep battling every chance I get."

A strenuous road schedule presents challenges Cox didn't have to fret over during his time with the Razorbacks. The team travels by bus and is in the midst of a stretch of games over 20 consecutive days.

Letting fatigue carry over onto the field is something Cox hopes to avoid.

"It's something I've had to get used to for sure," Cox said. "I don't let it affect the way I play."

Cox, who spent two seasons at Arkansas, looks back on his time in Fayetteville with gratitude and admiration. He continues to stay in contact with former teammates like Drew Smyly, who was also drafted in 2010 and is now in the Detroit Tigers' organization.

But Cox said he likes to refrain from focusing too much on the past or future. Instead he concentrates on what he's doing day-to-day for Springfield.

Staying in the moment is a virtue Cox has carried since first picking up a baseball. It's a quality that helped him become a first-round draft pick and one he figures will help him produce more consistently for the Cardinals' organization.

"I've got to this point by working hard and not getting distracted," Cox said. "I think about playing when I was younger all the time and how much I've improved by giving my best."