J. Brent Cox Just Getting His Feet Wet

J. Brent Cox, drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 2005 MLB Draft as one of the elite college pitching prospects as the closer for the College World Series winning Texas Longhorns, is just getting his feet wet in his first taste of professional baseball with the Tampa Yankees. The Yankees are using this first season to see what they have with him.

J. Brent Cox went 8-3 with 19 saves as the closer for the University of Texas, posting a 1.73 ERA in 42 appearances for the Longhorns. Widely considered one of the top relievers in the collegiate ranks, Cox has begun making the transition to pitching in the professional ranks.

"It's been a big change," J. Brent Cox remarked. "The physical ability and the consistency of the hitters at this level is just so much better. It is a bit more of a grind. You have to be here at 2 o'clock for a 7 o'clock game. You're just on the field a lot longer."

"In college you only play three to four games a week," the right-hander continued. "Here, you play everyday. I think we only have one off-day a month. So probably the biggest adjustment [from college] is not having any rest time."

The Yankees are simply trying to ease him in to pitching at the professional level, putting him on a strict pitching schedule in his inaugural season in the Yankees' organization.

"Right now it is just getting my feet wet," Cox told PinstripesPlus.com. "I'm only scheduled to throw every third day. So it is not like I get up everyday and throw in the bullpen. I think right now they are just letting me soak it all in and get my feet wet, that way I can come back in the Spring and know what it is all about."

      "We've seen some things and the coordinator [Nardi Contreras] was in town and I'm sure he has some things he probably wants to do with him, but we have that policy when players first come in to let them pitch and see what we have."

Armed with a devastating two-seam fastball and a plus slider, Cox has pitched quite well for Tampa in the early going, posting a 2.91 ERA in his first 13 professional appearances.

"He has pitched well for us," Tampa Pitching Coach Greg Pavlik told us. "We have a routine for him. He pitches, and then he's off for two days and then he pitches again. He's done real well for us. He has a good fastball and a good slider. He knows what he is doing out there."

Pitching at the professional level is mostly about making adjustments. One of the biggest adjustments Cox has had to make is going from a perennial winner like the University of Texas - who just won the College World Series in June - to a team that sits at the bottom of the West Division of the Florida State League.

He went from winning all the time to losing a little more often with the Tampa Yankees. Tampa has gone 12-24 since Cox joined the staff and that has been one of the more immediate effects Cox has had to endure, but Cox takes it in stride.

"It's tough but you know, it's not like everybody out there is trying to lose," Cox told us. "They're all giving their best effort and trying to win games. It's just not coming together right now. It is a grind, like I said. We're at the park everyday for several hours so for it to not pay off in the win column, it is just tough right now. But I think we'll be okay."

His indoctrination to pitching at the professional level has been more of a time to showcase his abilities on the mound. The Yankees are using this time to see what Cox has and they don't plan on making any immediate changes to his game.

TIPPING HIS PITCHES? J. Brent Cox, as seen in this photo, reveals his pitches during his wind-up for the first time and again (see main photo atop the article) before he releases the ball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
"We really don't work with new players," Coach Pavlik enlightened. "We've seen some things and the coordinator [Nardi Contreras] was in town and I'm sure he has some things he probably wants to do with him, but we have that policy when players first come in to let them pitch and see what we have."

While the Yankees have a wait-and-see attitude with their newest prized pitching prospect, one of the obvious subjects of conversation in the forthcoming off-season will most likely be his delivery on the mound.

Cox, who uses a full wind-up on the mound before releasing the ball in more of a side arm angle, does not really hide the ball particularly well. In fact, Cox seemingly tips his pitches not once but twice before releasing his pitches, a trait that Nardi Contreras and company will almost assuredly correct prior to the start of the 2006 season.

But for now, the Yankees are content leaving well enough alone and allowing Cox to get comfortable at the professional level before tinkering with his repertoire or mechanics.

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