08/12/2002 6:44 pm ET
MLBeat: Mackowiak is back
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Rob Mackowiak was back in the Pirates' starting lineup Monday for the first time since injuring his left oblique muscle on a throw to the plate against the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 3. Mackowiak had been swinging the bat without discomfort for the past week but his ability to throw was restricted.
"I haven't really aired it out yet -- I've just been throwing 60 percent to 70 percent," he said of his progress. "But I felt pretty good. It's should be okay. I'm not really worried about it."
Mackowiak knows what to expect from the injury. He also suffered a strained oblique in winter ball and believes the latest episode is much less severe.
"It feels 100 times better than it did over the winter," said Mackowiak. "It's not going to heal with a day or two days or one more day. I've got to fight through it, and hopefully I won't get a ton of balls hit to me."
Mackowiak gives the impression the he was willing do whatever it took to get back in the lineup after a week off.
"It's been a little frustrating," he said. "It gets old sitting around, not doing anything and nobody talking to you. It gets boring. It feels good to be back."
Mac remembers last game: It was eight years ago Monday that Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon played his last game as a big leaguer. In the final night before the 1994 strike, McClendon played first base for the Bucs and went 1-for-4 at the plate.
With the strike looming, the then 35-year-old utility player sensed that he had come to the end of the road.
"I knew that was my last at-bat in a Pirate uniform," said McClendon. "It was a sad day. I vividly remember that nobody really wanted the season to end that day."
The Bucs skipper also recalls that he "hit golf balls and pounded the brewskies" for a week before packing up for good.
McClendon signed a minor league contract the next May with the Cleveland Indians and spent the entire 1995 entire season with their Triple-A Buffalo affiliate. Despite the fact that he never made it back to the big leagues, McClendon is not bitter about the way his career ended.
"The fact is, I probably lost my passion for the game as far as playing was concerned," he said. "Looking back, things worked out the best for me."
West coast trip valuable: McClendon had hoped for at least a 3-3 record on his club's last West Coast trip of the season. Still, he remained upbeat after coming home just 2-4.
"In my opinion, it was a great road trip," McClendon said. "The record was not indicative of the type of baseball that we played.
"We played two championship-type quality clubs that are in the running for the divisional title and the Wild Card. They've got tremendous pitching and tremendous lineups, and we battled our (butts) off. We came up a little short in a couple of those games, but a bounce here and there we could have easily come home 4-2."
McClendon believes his team is closing the gap between themselves and the top clubs in the NL. He has also seen continual growth from his club throughout the season.
"We're playing very competitive baseball, and we're getting better every day," said McClendon. "A lot of the stuff doesn't show up in the box scores. Eventually, it's going to pay off and we are going to win our share of those games."
Fantasy Edge: Those fantasy owners hoping Armando Rios could put up bigger numbers when he returned from assorted leg injuries might want to wait a little while longer before putting him back in their lineup. In four starts since returning from the DL August 2, Rios has gone just 1-for-20. He was not in the Pirates starting lineup Monday.
Ed Eagle covers the Pirates for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.