Rick Ankiel, the former National League Rookie of the Year pitcher who became a full-time outfielder during spring training, will join the Swing of the Quad Cities as they begin a four-game series with the Lansing Lugnuts tonight. To make room for the outfielder, the Cardinals have transferred relief pitcher Justin Knoff to their extended spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida. Ankiel started the season at the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, but has been on the disabled list since May 7.
Ankiel went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA as a starting pitcher during the 2000 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. But the lefthander suffered previously-unseen control problems – uncorking five wild pitches in a single inning – during a 2000 playoff game, and has not recovered to his previous form on the mound ever since. After a horrific start in the major leagues to the 2001 season, Ankiel missed all of 2002 due to injury. He spent the duration of the 2003 season at Double-A Tennessee before performing well enough to earn a big league callup in 2004.
However, Ankiel’s control difficulties flared up again during spring training this season, and he announced his intentions to give up a pitching career in order to pursue a career as an outfielder. After being projected to start the season at Quad Cities, Ankiel performed well enough in spring training to start the season with Double-A Springfield.
Ankiel was originally selected in the second round of the 1997 draft. The 25-year-old has had a successful career as a hitter. He batted .250 in the major leagues for St. Louis in 2000, blasting two home runs in 68 at-bats. While on the road back to the big leagues in 2001, Ankiel batted .286 with ten home runs and 35 RBI for Rookie-level Johnson City, earning a spot on the league’s post-season All-Star team.
For his minor league career, Ankiel has batted .254 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI, including a 1-for-20 start this season at Double-A Springfield.
Knoff, a righthander acquired in the Double A phase of the Rule Five draft from Cincinnati, had been effective out of the Swing bullpen, going 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 17 outings. He had struck out 27 but walked 14 in 22 innings.
UP NEXT: The Swing return to John O’Donnell Stadium tonight to begin an eight-game homestand with the first of four games against the Lansing Lugnuts. The Swing will send Mike Parisi (1-4, 5.04) to the mound against Juan Perez (2-3, 5.94). First pitch is scheduled for 7:00, and pregame coverage on Progressive Talk AM 1270 will begin at 6:45. Tickets are available to all Swing home games by calling (563) 328-2000.
PROMOTION: Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins will be at John O’Donnell Stadium on Monday night, signing autographs and meeting with fans.
HOMESTAND REPORT: The Swing’s upcoming homestand starts Monday and runs through Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. The stand will feature numerous promotions, including a special appearance from BirdZerk! Saturday night. The Wednesday night ball game will be a Hooters/97 Rock beverage night as usual. Friday night will feature the Dispatch/Argus Swing T-shirt giveaway and Sunday night will be a 7:00 start time followed by post-game fireworks, courtesy of KWQC-TV6.