08/09/2002 9:06 pm ET
Rios returns to Pac Bell Park
Hopes to hear jeers rather than cheers
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Almost exactly a year ago, Pittsburgh outfielder Armando Rios faced one of the most tumultous weeks of his life, first being traded to the Pirates in the deal that sent Jason Schmidt to the Giants, then tearing the ACL in his left knee during the first two games of his Pittsburgh career.
Friday night, he returned to the scene of that gut-wrenching experience, starting in the familiar right field of Pacific Bell Park in the first game of a three-game series against his former club.
Long a fan favorite in San Francisco, Rios knows he'll probably be cheered, but oddly, what he hopes is that he'll be booed.
"It would be nice for everybody to say hi and cheer a little bit, and then after that, when the game starts, treat me like a normal outsider," he said. "That's why I feel so comfortable on the road, because I get maybe a little hyped with the boos and stuff. I need to get hot, so hopefully they'll help me."
Since returning from the DL last Friday, Rios has started twice, going 1-for-11 in five games. He knows he'll be fighting Craig Wilson and Rob Mackowiak for playing time in the outfield, and in a sense, that's re-energizing him as much as seeing old friends in San Francisco.
"I feel like I gotta earn my way back," said Rios. "It's a good challenge. I'm excited again. I feel like when I first came up to the big leagues, a rookie that, 'Hey, you have to prove yourself if you really want to belong here and want a starting job' or whatever. I feel the same way. We got guys here that are doing a great job."
Manager Lloyd McClendon agreed that they need to see what Rios can do before figuring out where he fits in on the club.
"Fact is, we just haven't had Armando on the field," he said. "We really don't know what type of player we have. ... More than anything, I'm just anxious to see a healthy player again and see just what he has."
With a Giants bat bag propped next to his locker, Rios said he loves coming back to the Bay Area and was especially excited to get the opportunity to enjoy some Latin food, music and his beloved salsa dancing.
He's also excited by the possibility of getting to see Barry Bonds' 600th career homer, although he qualified that enthusiasm by saying the Pirates would have to be leading by a healthy margin first.
"Hopefully, it'll hit the top of the right-field wall and roll back and land close to me," said Rios, who was next up after on-deck batter Jeff Kent when Bonds hit No. 500 last April. "And then I have to keep the ball. They're going to have to throw me out of the game, because I ain't giving that ball to nobody. They'll have to fight me. 'Either give the ball back or you have to be out of the game.' I'll tell them, 'OK, well, I'll go the showers.'
"Knowing him, it's probably going to go into the water. And people are going to be drowning for it."
Lowe demoted, Lincoln recalled: Right-hander Sean Lowe, who had been scored upon in three of his last four appearances, was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on Friday. Taking his place will be righty Mike Lincoln, who will be making his third appearance on the 25-man roster this season.
Lincoln, 27, started the season with the Pirates before being optioned to Nashville on May 13. He was recalled June 2 and demoted again July 31. In 10 games with the Sounds, he had a 1.23 ERA with two saves. For the Pirates, he's earned an 0-2 record with a 2.58 ERA in 33 games.
Lowe, 31, was 4-2 with a 5.24 ERA in 42 games (one start) this season. After posting a 6.30 ERA in April and an 8.27 ERA in May, he had rebounded with a 2.08 mark in June and 1.89 in July before suffering his recent struggles.
Fantasy Edge: Craig Wilson is a perfect 3-for-3 against Saturday starter Kirk Rueter -- three home runs in three at-bats, that is.
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.