Ankiel hits one over the fence

Rick Ankiel, once a man-of-the-hour starting pitcher hopeful for the St. Louis Cardinals, stepped back into the limelight on Monday, even though he didn't throw a single pitch and wasn't in a St. Louis spring training jersey. Instead, Ankiel, who recently announced that he was giving up trying to make the pitching squad in favor of becoming an outfielder, hit a two-run homer for the Springfield Cardinals minor league team in a 4-0 win over a Los Angeles Dodgers minor league team.

The Springfield News-Leader newspaper reported on Tuesday that Chris Maloney, Springfield Cardinals manager, put Ankiel into the number two hitting spot at the last minute and the former pitcher, an 11 game winner in 2000, went 1-for-5 at the plate.

Ankiel's homer came in the eighth inning off left-hander Jamal Hamilton who was 5-1 last year in combined pitching with the Dodgers' High-A and Low-A clubs.

Ankiel announced his decision to retire from pitching and seek a return to the big leagues as an outfielder three weeks ago after control problems continued to plague his pitching progress.

It is still a bit of a mystery where Ankiel will start the season. He told the News-Leader on Monday that he would like to remain in the Cardinal system. And, though the Cardinals have no current plans to play Ankiel in 2005, he remains on the St. Louis 25-man roster and he would have to clear waivers before being eligible to play in the Cardinals' minor league system.

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