Ankiel finished for season after knee surgery

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Cardinals pitcher-turned-outfielder did not play in any games this year.

ST. LOUIS -- Rick Ankiel's comeback has taken another turn for the worse. The pitcher-turned-outfielder will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his left knee.

Ankiel had the surgery May 26 in California. He injured the patellar tendon on Feb. 27 in Jupiter, Fla., during spring training and never played a spring or regular-season game.

"They tried to rehab it and get him back on the playing field without a surgical procedure, but it didn't happen," Cardinals spokesman Brian Bartow said. "This was the next-best option. I think they have every expectation he'll be ready next spring."

The injury came just as the 26-year-old Ankiel was emerging as a legitimate contender to make the Cardinals' roster as an outfielder, a year after giving up pitching.

Ankiel was drafted in the second round in 1997 and appeared on the verge of becoming one of baseball's best young left-handers when he went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 2000, his rookie season. He earned the start in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Atlanta Braves.

In one painful afternoon, things fell apart.

Pitching with a big lead in the third inning, Ankiel walked four of eight hitters and threw a record five wild pitches, some bouncing off the backstop. In another playoff game that season against the Mets, he threw four more wild pitches in a brief appearance.

He never recovered, going 1-2 in 2002 while trying to work through the wildness. After that, he pitched 10 more innings in the major leagues.

In the spring of 2005, Ankiel threw three strikes among 23 pitches at a spring training scrimmage against Cardinals hitters and decided to walk away from pitching and turn his attention to the outfield. As a pitcher, he hit .250 with two homers and nine RBIs in his only full season in the major leagues.

Last season, he had a combined 21 home runs and 75 RBIs in 85 games for Class-A Quad Cities and Class-AA Springfield.

With the retirement of Larry Walker and the loss through free agency of Reggie Sanders, Ankiel appeared to have a shot at making the Cardinals this season.

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