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Monday, July 30
Updated: July 31, 10:32 AM ET
Pirates get Rios, Vogelsong in return

Associated Press

John Vander Wal
San Francisco Giants
97 11 50 39 7 .278

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jason Schmidt was filling his car with gas when he learned he'll be traveling right into the playoff race.

The San Francisco Giants acquired the right-handed pitcher and outfielder John Vander Wal from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday for outfielder Armando Rios and right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.

Jason Schmidt
Starting Pitcher
San Francisco Giants
14 6 6 0 77 4.61

"The playoff run was the first thing on my mind," said Schmidt, who kept his cell phone handy because he knew the woeful Pirates planned to trade him.

"I'm really happy to stay in the NL, where I'm familiar with the hitters and everything that goes on here. ... I'm a West Coast boy, so it's nice to be going back there, especially to the Giants."

Fresh off an exhilarating four-game sweep at Arizona and heading into a six-game homestand, the Giants (57-49) positioned themselves for a run at NL West-leading Los Angeles (61-45) by adding a proven starter to their rotation and swapping right fielders with the Pirates a day before the trade deadline.

"We really thought this would give us a great chance to get into the postseason and have success," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "To a man, this is what we live for. It's about going for it."

The Pirates, whose 41-63 record ties Cincinnati for the NL's worst, were widely expected to trade the pair before the deadline.

The deal was completed one day before the Pirates make their only trip of the season to San Francisco. Giants manager Dusty Baker said Schmidt might get his first start with the Giants at Pacific Bell Park on Wednesday -- perhaps against Mike Lincoln, who's expected to take his spot in Pittsburgh's rotation.

It could be the biggest move of a busy season for Sabean, who has retooled a large portion of the roster that finished 2000 with baseball's best record. Last week, the Giants acquired Andres Galarraga from Texas for three minor leaguers, while Brian Boehringer and Wayne Gomes recently were added to the bullpen.

With Los Angeles trading for James Baldwin and Arizona adding Albie Lopez last week, Sabean wanted a starter to keep pace in the NL West's arms race. Sabean and his scouts were wowed by Schmidt's 2.66 ERA over his last six starts, in which he had 39 strikeouts and just 10 walks.

"He's pitched as good as anybody in baseball in his last six starts," Sabean said. "He's young, and he's going to make an impact on that rotation."

Schmidt will join Shawn Estes, Kirk Rueter, Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz in the Giants' rotation, taking the spot held earlier by Mark Gardner and more recently by rookie Ryan Jensen.

Schmidt, an Idaho native who will be a free agent at season's end, admitted he had already thought about the prospects of signing a long-term deal with the Giants. He spent much of 2000 on the disabled list before undergoing right shoulder surgery last August.

Vander Wal (35) is older than Rios (29) and has a higher salary, but the Giants like the veteran's versatility and left-handed power -- the better to put balls over the right-field fence and into McCovey Cove.

"I'm ecstatic to be in the playoff fever, because there's nothing like it in baseball," Vander Wal said. "It's a beautiful ballpark there, and I'm ready to go play some ball."

Vander Wal's prowess as a pinch-hitter could be important, especially after the Giants traded Felipe Crespo to the Phillies last week. Vander Wal also can play first base to spell Galarraga or J.T. Snow.

"I always love teams that have many interchangeable parts, as long as you don't lose anything on defense as you're changing those parts," Baker said. "This gives us a lot of opportunities."

Rios has produced decent power numbers (14 HRs, 49 RBI) in his second full season in the big leagues, but his terrible play at Pac Bell Park (.218, 3 HRs) kept him in an occasional platoon with 39-year-old Eric Davis, even though Davis is hitting just .204.

With no chance of a playoff run, the Pirates trimmed their payroll and got value for Schmidt before he became a free agent. Schmidt is making $3.2 million this year, and Vander Wal gets $1.55 million in both 2001 and 2002.

"This is a trade designed to help us both now and in the future," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "In Armando Rios, we are getting a younger right fielder who is talented and has played well for the Giants this season."

Schmidt is expected to be replaced in the Pirates' rotation by Lincoln, a right-handed relief pitcher. Rios will move into Vander Wal's spot.

"I've always liked him," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said of Rios. "He does a lot of things well. I think he will be a good fit in our lineup."

Vogelsong, 24, has made 13 relief appearances with the Giants this season, going 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA. He also was 3-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 10 starts with Triple-A Fresno.

Vogelsong has ties to Pennsylvania, having attended Atglen's Octorara High School and Kutztown State.

The Pirates' first season in PNC Park has been disappointing and turbulent. This month, the team hired Littlefield as general manager when Cam Bonifay was fired after eight seasons in Pittsburgh.

The move was Littlefield's first trade in his new job.

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