AUGUST 6th: Ankiel has announced that he will indeed pursue a comeback, in an interview on FOX Sports Midwest (video available on Twitter).
AUGUST 2nd: Though he’s long removed from his days as an active major leaguer, former pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel says he’s now “toying with” the idea of trying to return to the mound, as Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. It seems the thought is still in its infancy, but it’s intriguing to consider nevertheless.
Ankiel, who recently turned 39, has already crafted a notable path in baseball. He was a phenom on the mound for the Cardinals, only to see his career crumble in stunning fashion owing to a case of the yips that never went away.
The highly valued young hurler placed second in the 2000 Rookie of the Year voting at twenty years of age. But he collapsed in the ensuing postseason and was never again a useful MLB pitcher. While he made it back to the majors briefly in 2004, Ankiel decided to rebuild himsef as a outfielder the following spring when the problems returned.
Ankiel ended up turning in seven seasons as a position player. While he was noted mostly for his defense — particularly, a rocket of a throwing arm — Ankiel also had plenty of power and ended up swatting 76 home runs and carrying a .240/.302/.422 slash in over two thousand career plate appearances. It was almost entirely a feel-good story, though a PED controversy arose in the middle of that time.
Needless to say, there’d still be quite a few hurdles to Ankiel’s potential return to professional pitching. But he is said to have reached the upper eighties with his fastball even before any dedicated work. He’s not outlandishly old; on occasion, pitchers still work into their forties. And given that he stopped pitching at 25 years of age, his arm hasn’t suffered anything close to the wear and tear of a typical big league hurler.
Given that the idea only seems to have been hatched recently, details remain scant. It may be that Ankiel won’t even follow through on the concept. But he indicated to Brown that he’d like to try working as a reliever in camp next spring. That’d surely make for a fascinating storyline to follow for those many fans that have wondered whether Ankiel still had one more run left in his powerful left arm.