Any lingering uncertainty regarding Jordan Swagerty's role in the Cardinals' Minor League system can be put to rest, as Cardinals farm director John Vuch confirmed that Swagerty will return to the starting rotation in 2012.
Ranked by MLB.com as the organization's seventh-best prospect going into this season, Swagerty made just one-third of his 36 appearances in 2011 as a starter. That was by design. Given that it was Swagerty's first season in the Minors and that he had pitched in a relief role in college, the Cardinals were cautious with his workload.
That prompted a midseason move to the bullpen, where Swagerty thrived. His first professional season included stops at three Minor League levels.
"Never being a starter, I had to go about business a little differently and get my arm going," Swagerty said. "There were a lot of things that were different, but at the end of the day it's still baseball and you have to get outs. It was a good learning experience."
The chance to be a starter early in 2011 did aid in Swagerty's ability to further develop his changeup. He has four pitches that he can already throw for strikes, which is why the Cardinals don't want to pigeonhole the former second-round Draft pick into a relief role yet. Having accrued 93 2/3 innings last season, Swagerty should also be ready to shoulder the workload of a starter for a full Minor League season.
His starting assignment will be determined during Spring Training, but expect Swagerty to receive strong consideration for a spot in Double-A Springfield's rotation. He will be a participant in Major League camp.
"I just want to go out there and do [well] in Spring Training and get off to a hot start," said Swagerty, 22. "When you get to go to big league camp and work with the big league guys, you get to learn new things and have to take it all in. Hopefully you take a few things that can help you in the season."