Swift pitched on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and was the second choice overall in that year’s free agent draft by the Seattle Mariners. He was rushed to the majors after just two months in the minors and was overmatched, suffering through a five-game losing streak en route to a 6-10 record with a 4.77 ERA. In 1986, shuttling between Calgary and Seattle, Swift had a 2-9 record with a 5.46 ERA.
Swift flashed moments of brilliance, including a 1-0 win over the Yankees and Tommy John in 1986, when he went 7 2/3 innings without allowing a base hit. But after missing the 1987 season with bone spurs in his elbow, he was unable to gain any consistency for the Mariners in ’88, and was shuffled between the rotation and bullpen. Between 1990 and ’91, he made 126 appearances, and all but three were in relief.
Sent to the Giants along with Mike Jackson and Dave Burba for Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger in December 1991, Swift came into his own. Inserted into the Giants rotation, he led the National League with a 2.08 ERA in ’92. He followed that up in 1993 by winning 21 games, teaming with John Burkett to become the only tandem in Giants history to win 20 games in the same season.
Hindered by arm problems, Swift started only 17 games for the Giants in 1994, but still posted a solid 3.38 ERA. He signed with the Colorado Rockies in December 1994, hoping to conquer Coors Field and give the Rockies a much-needed ace. A finesse pitcher who induced many groundouts, Swift’s pitching style seemed ideal for the thin air of Colorado.
Swift went 9-3 in his first season as a Rockie, but it was accompanied by a 4.94 ERA. He barely pitched in ’96 due to shoulder trouble and tricep tightness, and was completely ineffective in ’97, posting a dreadful 6.34 ERA. The Rockies finally released Swift, realizing that he was never going to regain the form that made him an ace with the Giants.