Ankiel perfect but Cards not in 9-1 loss

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rick Ankiel pitched another perfect inning for the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday in a 9-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

The 23-year-old left-hander, trying to rebound from wildness and an arm injury, entering in the sixth inning. He threw 15 pitches, throwing a called third strike past Vinny Castilla, getting Wilson Betemit to strike out swinging and retiring Nick Green on a flyout.

"I just keep getting more and more confident each time I go out there," Ankiel said. "That's what I need to do after I missed all of last year. I got very bored."

Ankiel was an 11-game winner in 2000, then developed record-setting wildness in the playoffs that continued into 2001, causing the team to send him to the minors. He missed last season with an elbow injury.

"He's in a good groove," manager Tony La Russa said. "Every time he goes out there he gets a little better."

Ankiel, who is being converted into a reliever, has made four one-inning appearances this spring, allowing three runs and five hits in one and pitching hitless ball in the other three.

He has five strikeouts and two walks, both in his first game, on March 1.

Atlanta scored four runs in both the third and seventh innings. Matt Franco had a two-run single in the second off starter Brett Tomko, and Robert Fick hit a three-run homer off Mike Crudale in the seventh.

So Taguchi scored the Cardinals' only run in the first inning on a double, balk and infield out.

Braves starter Horacio Ramirez allowed an unearned run and three hits in four innings. He has not allowed an earned run this spring.

"He's got nasty stuff," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "He's looked real good this spring. He hits his spots."

Atlanta, rebuilding its rotation following the departures of Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood and Damian Moss, has allowed only three earned runs in 13 games.

Notes: The Cardinals optioned RHPs Matt Duff and Jimmy Journell to AAA Memphis and reassigned three players to their minor league camp: LHP Dan Serafini, INF Ivanon Coffie and OF Jon Nunnally.

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