Rick Ankiel’s attempt to return as a full-time major league pitcher is over. The Cardinals announced today that Ankiel will switch from pitcher to outfielder. Ankiel ended a four year absence from the majors when he took the mound for the Cardinals last September, making five appearances. In ten innings out of the bullpen, Ankiel was 1-0, allowed six runs off 10 hits and had an ERA of 5.40. A winter a stint in a Puerto Rican league ended early when he suffered discomfort in his left elbow.
Ankiel’s wild journey in professional baseball began when he moved into the Cardinals’ starting rotation in 2000, months shy of his 21st birthday. He went 11-7 with 194 strikeouts and a 3.50 ERA and was given the start for Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS against the Braves. That’s where Ankiel’s problems began, as his pin-point control was lost in an unforgettable fashion. Ankiel allowed four runs off six walks and four hits in 2 2/3 innings. His pitches were so wild that some flew over catcher Mike Matheny’s head, and hit the safety netting.
The Cardinals went on to win the game and the series. In the NLCS, Ankiel got the start in Game 2 and the control issues continued. In 1 1/3 inning, Ankiel gave up three runs off a hit and five walks. In 2001 he made six appearances and struggled with control again. In six starts Ankiel went 1-2 and pitched just 25 innings. He allowed 25 hits, 25 walks and had an ERA of 7.13. He didn’t make it back to the majors until September of 2004. He also spent over a year recovering from Tommy John surgery during his time away.
As a batter Ankiel was respectable, hitting .250, with two home runs and nine RBI’s in 2000.