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Same Story for Swindell: Another Strong Outing Goes to Waste : Indians: Pitcher allows two hits and strikes out nine in seven innings, but victory eludes him.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Greg Swindell was off by himself in the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse, playing solitaire. It was a way to collect his thoughts before going out to pitch against the Angels.

Swindell’s mind was certainly focused Thursday.

He retired the first 12 batters and allowed only two hits before leaving after seven innings. Swindell allowed one unearned run and struck out nine.

He got a no-decision for his efforts, as the Angels rallied for a 5-4 victory.

But, lately, there has been more for Swindell to think about besides pitching.

Swindell is still a member of the Indians. Chances are, he’ll remain one.

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However, for the past month, Swindell has been rumored to be part of more deals than Monty Hall. Yet, after all the talk, speculation and waiting, he’s still in Cleveland.

A month ago, Swindell wasn’t sure where he would end up. Odds were on Toronto, where the Blue Jays were looking to bolster their pitching staff.

Either Swindell or teammate Tom Candiotti were going to be traded. Blue Jay officials even made the trip to Cleveland to watch the two pitch.

“I don’t know how much of an effect it had on Greg, but it had to bother him some,” Manager Mike Hargrove said.

Candiotti was traded June 27, but that did little to keep Swindell’s name out of the trade rumors.

While speculation circulated, Swindell struggled. He made three horrendous starts, giving up 18 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings, and his earned-run average jumped from 2.22 to 3.05.

“Greg lost his focus a little,” Hargrove said. “He had a couple of bad starts. He knew what he was doing wrong and corrected.”

In his last three starts, Swindell has given up four runs in 23 innings. He has walked only one in those three starts.

Part of the reason for the turnaround can be attributed to stability. The Indians have begun negotiations for a long-term contract. Swindell is eligible to be a free agent in 1992.

“The sooner I sign a contract, the better,” Swindell said recently. “I need the piece of mind of knowing where I’m going to be for the next three years, so I don’t have to listen to trade rumors every day.”

Of course, there are some who might think staying in Cleveland would be some sort of punishment. The Indians, after all, are at the bottom of the American League East Division and have the worst record in baseball.

They have scored the fewest runs in the major leagues, a fact Swindell knows all too well.

The Indians have scored a total of 10 runs in his seven defeats, which is why Swindell has a record of 6-7 while having an ERA of 2.76.

“His record is not indicative of how well he’s pitched,” Hargrove said. Swindell has not only returned to form on the mound, he’s become more of leader on a team that has an average age of 25.

In his previous start in Seattle, Swindell had another strong performance, giving up four hits and three runs. He also provided some support in the dugout, clapping, cheering and prodding his teammates. The Indians scored four runs in the ninth to win.

“I’m going to stay positive and try to keep the guys up,” Swindell said after the Seattle game.

Which on this team is a solitary role.


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