Prospect Swagerty moves closer to returning

JUPTER, Fla. -- Just days before he is set to participate in the Cardinals' early Minor League camp, Jordan Swagerty reached one of the final checkpoints in his recovery from elbow surgery, which kept him off the field for the entire 2012 season.

After taking his rehab program to Jupiter last summer to work under the supervision of the Cardinals, Swagerty continued that work in Arizona over the offseason. That's where he was on Monday when, for the first time since the 2011 season, Swagerty pitched to hitters.

"Right now, the medical guys are telling us that he should be good to go," said farm director John Vuch. "Obviously when he shows up, we'll take a look at him first hand. The one good thing is we do have some luxury that if he isn't 100 percent, we don't have to rush him to be ready. But we don't expect any delay."

Swagerty's elbow began to bother him about this time last year, when he was in Major League camp as a non-roster player. He stopped throwing for precautionary reasons, and it was eventually determined that Swagerty would need to undergo two procedures, including Tommy John surgery, to correct the problem.

While visiting St. Louis for Winter Warm-Up last month, Swagerty said that his arm was responding well to his increasing workload. Swagerty enters 2013 as the Cardinals' 15th-best prospect, according to MLB.com.

Vuch said that the organization has Swagerty pegged to return to a starting role, though those plans could change if the medical staff feels fewer innings would be better for the right-hander. By pitching as a starter, Swagerty will have a more consistent schedule.

In 2011, Swagerty made a combined 12 starts and 24 relief appearances in stops at three Minor League levels. He ended that year in Double-A Springfield, where he allowed three earned runs on eight hits in 9 1/3 innings.