Cardinals Move to Shore Up Minor League Pens

In addition to trying to improve results, keeping inning counts under control is a factor as two prominent starters in the St. Louis Cardinals system become relievers.

The St. Louis Cardinals' second-round draft pick in 2010, former Arizona State University pitcher Jordan Swagerty, knows about relief as he was a very successful closer for the Sun Devils.

While he was a reliever in his professional debut, a brief Arizona Fall League stint last October, the Cardinals made the 21-year-old right-hander a starter in 2011.

After five starts with Quad Cites (1.50 ERA) and seven more with Palm Beach (2.27 ERA), Swagerty has been moved to the pen, effective immediately. He made his first relief appearance on Tuesday night, tossing a perfect inning while fanning two.

Cardinals farm director John Vuch confirmed the move.

"Swagerty will relieve for the remainder of the year in order to keep from having a huge jump in innings from last year to this year," Vuch said Tuesday. "Long term, we still consider him as a starting pitcher, and the move to reliever is solely related to conserving his workload for 2011."

After falling short of a first-half playoff berth, the Double-A Springfield Cardinals are also becoming the beneficiary of several moves to shore up their pitching.

Already announced is the promotion of left-hander John Gast, joining the rotation after a successful stint with Palm Beach. He essentially takes the spot of Maikel Cleto, promoted to Memphis after his second return from St. Louis.

Right-hander Richard Castillo, a starter for Palm Beach in both 2009 and 2010, has been sent back down to A-Advanced after spending the first half of the season in Springfield's pen. Gast took Castillo's roster spot as both transactions were made official Tuesday.

Look for more changes coming for the Double-A Cardinals following their two days off for the Texas League All-Star Game.

After the break, right-hander David Kopp, St. Louis' second-round pick in the 2007 draft, will be shifted into a relief role. The oft-injured hurler had off-season surgery and perhaps pushed himself too hard in spring camp and returned to the disabled list.

The 25-year-old was activated on May 14. In nine starts, Kopp logged a 7.28 ERA. The 2010 Texas League all-star has fanned 31 and walked 18 in 47 innings this season. The organization removed Kopp from the 40-man roster one week ago.

Possessing a mid-90's sinker that is considered a plus pitch when he keeps it down in the zone, Kopp may prove to be better suited for a relief role. He both started and relieved at Clemson.

From the organization's perspective, both Springfield and Memphis need bullpen help so if Kopp takes to the change, perhaps he could move his stalled career ahead more quickly.

The Double-A Cards will still need another starter, though I have not been informed who that will be. One prime candidate would seem to be Palm Beach right-hander Joe Kelly, who lowered his 2011 ERA to 2.59 on Tuesday evening with a six-inning, one-run outing during which he fanned eight.

Bringing this article full-circle, Swagerty made his relief debut on Tuesday night in support of Kelly.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2011 The Cardinal Nation, and All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories