Ankiel, 25, had yet to appear in a spring training game as he
tried to revive a career interrupted by control problems and
reconstructive elbow surgery. He was to have pitched in a "B"
game Wednesday, but it was rained out.
Ankiel said he's been thinking of making the switch since he
left winter ball in Puerto Rico after feeling a twinge in his
elbow. He was impressive in his first time throwing to hitters this
spring, but the outings since then have been erratic.
"This whole time, the frustration that built up, it seems like
it was really eroding my spirit and starting to affect my
personality off the field as well," Ankiel said. "It just became
apparent that it was time for me to move on and pursue becoming an
outfielder. I feel relieved now and I'm happy to move on."
Ankiel is a career .207 hitter in the major leagues, going
18-for-87 with two homers, a double, a triple and nine RBI. He
played some at designated hitter for the Cardinals' rookie league
team in Johnson City, Tenn., where he hit 10 homers in 2001.
"I've always enjoyed playing outfield and I've definitely
enjoyed hitting," Ankiel said. "Hopefully, I can pick up as much
as I can being around some of these guys and spending more time
with them in the cage."
Manager Tony La Russa and general manager Walt Jocketty had been
aware for a few days that Ankiel was considering giving up
pitching. Ankiel said the pair "said they understood and wished me
"We are fully supportive of Rick's decision to convert to an
everyday outfielder," Jocketty said. "Rick will continue to train
with the major league club this spring, and we look forward to
seeing his development as a full-time batter and outfielder."
Pitching coach Dave Duncan said he didn't know of the decision
until Wednesday morning.
"I've been trying to get him ready to pitch," Duncan said.
Center fielder Jim Edmonds sympathized with Ankiel's decision.
"It can't be any more difficult than what he's been going
through," Edmonds said. "He's been through a lot."
Ankiel sat out 2002 with a sprained left elbow and missed most
of the 2003 and 2004 seasons after reconstructive elbow surgery.
The left-hander made it to the major leagues at age 19 and was
11-7 with a 3.50 ERA with 194 strikeouts in 175 innings in 2000 but
developed record-setting wildness in the playoffs. In the
postseason opener against Atlanta, he became the first major league
pitcher since 1890 to throw five wild pitches in one inning and had
nine wild pitches in four innings during the postseason.
He went 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA in six starts for the Cardinals in
2001, walking 25 in 24 innings, then was sent to the minors. He
didn't return until last Sept. 7 and made five late-season starts,
going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings.
Before Wednesday, Ankiel had been a virtual lock to make the
team because he is out of minor league options. Now that he's
changed positions the Cardinals likely will have an easier time
sending him outright to the minors because, as an unsuccessful-pitcher-turned-outfielder, he'll likely clear waivers.
"My concern is just taking care of me as a person, and whatever
else happens will fall into place," Ankiel said.