Swagerty's elbow began to bother him in February, when he was throwing early bullpen sessions in Major League camp. He stopped throwing for precautionary reasons, and the organization's hope was that rest and some rehabilitation would be enough for him to return to the mound fairly quickly.
But the discomfort continued, prompting Swagerty to seek a second opinion from the noted orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum earlier this week. It was then that everyone involved determined surgery would be the best course of action.
"It's disappointing," farm director John Vuch said. "But in the long run, it's probably better to do everything now than to break [the two procedures] up and risk losing the better part of two seasons."
That risk would have been tied to Swagerty's elbow ligament, which technically isn't torn yet. But the bone spurs are actually supporting and protecting the ligament, and removing them would have further compromised the ligament.
At that point it wouldn't have been a question of if Swagerty would need Tommy John surgery but when.
The procedure to remove the bone spurs alone would have sidelined Swagerty until at least August. Adding the ligament replacement halts any chance of a late-season return.
A normal recovery period puts Swagerty, a second-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, in line to return to competition near the start of next season. The 22-year-old right-hander was expected to begin this season in the Double-A rotation after having pitched at three Minor League levels last year. He had a combined 5-3 record and 1.83 ERA in 36 games (12 starts).
Swagerty had climbed to No. 7 on MLB.com's list of the Cardinals' Top 20 prospects prior to the injury.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.