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Mientkiewicz gets back on the diamond

| Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- Doug Mientkiewicz did not want to return to the Pirates just four days after his wife had heart surgery. But she did not give him much choice.

"She kicked me out of the house," said Mientkiewicz, with a wry smile. "That's why I'm here. She called Greg (Johnson, traveling secretary) and set up my plane ticket.

"After all the surgeries I've had, and she's been right there by my side, I feel weird not being with her now. She's still in a lot of pain, but she's a warrior."

Mientkiewicz was placed on the bereavement list Sunday, a day before his wife Jodi had a pacemaker installed.

He was activated before last night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers. To clear roster space, outfielder Steve Pearce was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis.

With plenty of family around the house to help her, Jodi Mientkiewicz insisted her husband get back to work.

"I told people she's going to be the one to make Doug come back here," manager John Russell said with a grin. "It's good to have him back, and it's great she's getting better."

Mientkiewicz said his wife, who recently turned 35, has long suffered from fatigue and blackouts, but thought it was just a side effect of strenuous exercise. Last week, she complained of chest pain after returning from a trip to Montana.

"She went into the doctor's office thinking she was just going to have a simple EKG," Mientkiewicz said. "She came out needing a pacemaker. The lower part of her heart was just not working."

Doctors are not yet certain what caused the virus which is attacking Jodi Mientkiewicz's heart. The next six weeks will be crucial to her recovery.

Mientkiewicz has received plenty of support -- from his teammates and coaches, from the Pirates' front office and from the Minnesota Twins, where he began his career.

"Our house looks like a flower shop," he said.

Folks in the family's new hometown also have stepped up.

"Everywhere I've gone in Pittsburgh, people have been so nice," Mientkiewicz said. "The other day, a guy stopped me on the street and asked if there was anything he can do. Pittsburgh's been great."

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