Baseball is full of deceptions. Pitchers try to deceive batters. Managers use misdirection as a matter of strategy.
As once-promising St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel tries to resurrect his professional career as an outfielder, at least one such move has brought regrets.
Using Darryl Kile as a decoy when he intended to start Ankiel against Atlanta's Greg Maddux in the 2000 National League Division Series was "a big mistake," manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Thursday's editions.
The deception might have added to the pressure on then-rookie Ankiel, who made it to the majors that season at age 19 and was 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA. He led the team with 194 strikeouts in 175 innings.
After holding the Braves scoreless in the first two innings and being given a 6-0 lead, Ankiel became the first major league pitcher since 1890 to throw five wild pitches in one inning. He faced eight hitters in the inning, retired two and allowed four runs before being lifted. Ankiel finished the postseason with nine wild pitches and 11 walks in four innings.
In 2001, Ankiel went 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA in six starts for the Cardinals, 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.
On Wednesday, Ankiel announced that he was giving up pitching to try to make the team as an outfielder.
"I don't have any regrets about starting Rick in Game 1," La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. "In my mind, our only chance to win that series was to pitch those two guys [Ankiel and Kile] four games."
What does bother La Russa is that he had Kile appear at the news conference the day before the series. Kile answered questions without indicating he would start Game 2.
La Russa also pointed to the loss of catcher Mike Matheny before that series, who he said might have caught the Ankiel pitches that eluded Carlos Hernandez.
Ankiel, now 25, had not pitched in a spring training game this season. He was to have pitched in a "B" game Wednesday, but it was rained out.
He sat out 2002 with a sprained left elbow and missed most of the 2003 and 2004 seasons after reconstructive elbow surgery.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.