The Rick Ankiel Experiment rages on.
Most people will remember Ankiel as the St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect who raced up the organizational ladder to pitch in the majors for a while back in 2000. As a 19 year old, he held a 11-7 record with a 3.50 ERA with 195 Ks in just 175 innings. He was the next Roger Clemens or Doc Gooden. A child prodigy who had no ceiling.
That was, until the postseason came.
He pitched the series opener against Atlanta....and became the first pitcher since 1890 to throw five wild pitches in one inning. He later went on to throw 4 more wild pitches in three more innings of work. The prodigy just snapped.
The next season, Ankiel, in mainly relief roles, went 1-2 with an ERA over 7.00. He walked 25 guys in 24 innings....and was sent down to the minors. From 2002-2004, he sat most of the time due to elbow surgery and various other issues.
Since his disastrous 2000 playoff run, he’s bobbed up and down between St. Louis and their farm systems...including their rookie-level team in Johnson City. He’s currently run out of minor league options.
So this was to be his big shot back into the majors. Having to make the club or get released...he was given a great shot to actually make the club. But, a small ache was starting to creep into his arm. That’s when his change of heart hit. He wants to give up pitching. The Cards’ young prodigy, who finished second to Rafael Furcal in the 2000 National League Rookie Of The Year voting, is quitting pitching. He wants to give the outfield a try.
It isn’t a crazy as it sounds. For a pitcher, Ankiel could hit. He has two HR in his time in St. Louis...and batted .207 with 9 RBI. He also hit 10 HR in his stint with Johnson City. He’s played some DH in the minors and had some success. So, he now figures if he concentrates on that, he may be of some use to the Cardinals. Both Cards? manager Tony LaRussa and GM Walt Jocketty are okay with Ankiel?s decision. In fact, go to the Cards website and it already has Ankiel listed as a left fielder.
Rick will stay on the Cardinals? spring training roster...but after that, who knows? Since he is out of options, he either has to make the club or be placed on waivers. Either way, Ankiel?s life may be making a turn for the better.
Ankiel is still only 25 years old...an age where many of those "prodigies" are starting to creep up into the majors. But, he?s starting fresh again.