February 27, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Learning how to work together isn''t new for Mississippi State pitchers Devin Jones and Lee Swindle.
Swindle and Jones had plenty of practice doing that as teammates at Eupora High School.
It''s easy for the former Eagles to take the 20-minute drive down Highway 82 to visit family, friends, and to get a home-cooked meal, but when they aren''t able to do that, seeing each other at practice and games on a daily basis provides a little taste of home.
When Jones joined the Bulldogs last year, Swindle, a transfer from Meridian Community College, already was on campus.
Swindle is glad he has been reunited with Jones.
"I look at it being a blessing with me and him being on the same team in high school and here ," Swindle said.
In MSU''s third game of the season against Northern Illinois, Jones, a freshman, started and Swindle relieved him.
"Being from Eupora, that''s got to be special and it was a coincidence," MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said. "For their family and everybody in Eupora, it turned out to be pretty neat. It was good to get both of those boys out there."
Jones allowed one run and two hits with two walks and three strikeouts in four innings.
Thompson said that was not a bad performance for Jones'' first time out.
"Devin had great composure," Thompson said. "He went out there and threw a lot of competitive pitches. That was all we were asking for the first start of his career."
Swindle knew Jones could get the job done, but that he would have to fight some butterflies early.
He was speaking for himself as much as he was for Jones.
"I was nervous for him going out there for the first time," Swindle said. "I tried to talk to him before the game about him having a little bit of nerves. He pretty much already knew that. I told him as long as he can get through that first inning everything will be fine, and he did just that. I was proud of him.
"I always knew he was good and was just waiting on him to develop. He''s shown he has developed."
Jones credited Swindle and his teammates for settling him down for that first outing.
He learned all he had to do was make quality pitches and let the defense do its work.
"Lee told me what to expect and what to prepare for," Jones said. "All of the guys take good care of you and make sure you do what you''re supposed to be doing and that you are working hard."
Swindle has not fared as well in his two appearances this season.
After giving up four runs, three earned, on four hits in one inning against Northern Illinois, Swindle gave up two more runs, one earned on two hits in 1 1/3 innings Wednesday against Mississippi Valley State. His earned run average is 13.50.
Swindle is trying to work back into shape after experiencing arm trouble in the fall.
"I bounced back this spring and dealt with it," Swindle said. "It''s all better now."
Swindle appreciates the attention Thompson has given him and the rest of the pitching staff.
"He''s got a unique sense of teaching," Swindle said. "He''s a laid back and he''s the kind of coach that let''s you find it on your own. I think that''s good. It helps you discover who you are as a pitcher and it has helped me find out who I am and who I can be for this team."
Swindle expects to play a middle relief role, while Jones could be used the same way or as a spot starter in the middle of the week.
Jones is ready for whatever Thompson and coach John Cohen need.
"I''m just here to do whatever is best for the team," Jones said. "I will accept my role. I''m just happy to be here."
Jones, Swindle, and the rest of the pitchers will be tested this weekend when MSU (5-1) plays host to Nicholls University for a three-game series. The games are 4 p.m. today, 1 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Right-handed junior Ricky Bowen (0-0, 2.25 ERA) will start in the first game, while left-handed freshman Nick Routt (1-0, 1.12 ERA) will go in game two. A starter has yet to be determined for the third game.
MSU''s has used 13 pitchers in its first six games, with Swindle, Greg Houston, Chad Crosswhite, Justin Bussey, and Forrest Moore each making two appearances.
"Everybody is working for a spot," Swindle said. "It''s going to take each one of us pushing each other to make us better."
That''s not only true for the pitching staff, but also for every aspect of the program under Cohen.
Jones said the Bulldogs want to put pressure on the teams they play.
"We want to attack everything we do as far as the running game, pitching, defense or hitting," Jones said. "We''re not going to take it light on anybody."