Rick Ankiel’s attempt to return to baseball as a pitcher will be delayed a bit. Yahoo Sports reports that Ankiel had ligament reattachment surgery in October. Per the report, Ankiel is looking at a return at some point next season.
Yes, it’s true. That Rick Ankiel is trying to make a comeback as a pitcher after making a comeback as a position player. What a story this would be.
Ankiel, 39, debuted in the majors at age 19 as a pitching phenom, ranked by Baseball America as the top prospect in all of baseball. In 1999 and 2000 combined, Ankiel was 11-8 with a 3.46 ERA (135 ERA+) and 233 strikeouts in 208 innings. He was the runner-up in the 2000 NL Rookie of the Year voting. All signs pointed to him being a front-line starter for a long time, if he could get his control in order.
Instead, Ankiel went the opposite direction and just fell apart. In 24 innings in 2001, he walked 25, hit three batters and uncorked five wild pitches. It got worse in the minors, when he threw just 4 1/3 innings in Triple-A and walked — brace yourself — 17 hitters while throwing 12 wild pitches. He simply lost the ability to have any idea where the ball was going.
After coming back from Tommy John surgery, he never really was able to get back on track.
Next we heard of Ankiel, he was coming back as an outfielder. From 2007-13, Ankiel hit .242/.304/.427 with 100 doubles and 74 home runs for the Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets. He also could unleash one of the best throwing arms you’d see from the outfield, with 32 assists and dozens of runners not risking taking an extra base for fear of upping that number.
Ankiel hasn’t been playing professionally since then, but now he’s looking to come back as a relief pitcher for the Cardinals. We could say “full circle” if it happens, but his route is worthy of much grander terminology. It really would be one of the most amazing stories we’ve seen weaved in a career.
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