The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t wait for the Los Angeles Dodgers to get into town for the start of a weekend series. They took the wraps off the Hollywood script Thursday night at Busch Stadium as Rick Ankiel, making his non-pitching debut for the Redbirds, smacked a 3-run homer in his fourth at bat to lead the Cards to a 5-0 shutout over the San Diego Padres.
Ankiel, who was called up from Triple A Memphis to replace Scott Spiezio, who has been placed on the restricted list, came to the plate in the 1 st inning and was given a standing ovation. He popped up to the infield. But it didn’t seem to matter to the fans, who were happy to welcome back the one-time pitching phenom who was demoted to the Minors during the 2001 season when he lost control of his pitches. He made a brief return to the Majors in 2004 with the Cards, winning a game, but decided shortly after that to quit pitching and focus on an everyday position.
It didn’t hurt that Ankiel could hit. At the time of this week’s call-up, Ankiel was leading the Pacific Coast League with 32 home runs. He started Thursday’s game in right field.
Ankiel’s return overshadowed a brilliant pitching performance by Joel Pineiro (2-2), who allowed only 4 hits, while striking out 4 batters, in 7 innings of work. San Diego starter Chris Young (9-4) gave up 4 earned runs in 6 innings to take the loss.
The Cardinals (53-59) open a three game series with the Dodgers Friday night at Busch Stadium. Adam Wainwright (10-8) pitches for the Cards against L.A.’s Brad Penny (13-3).