Former major league pitcher/outfielder Rick Ankiel is nearing “decision time” regarding his potential comeback, agent Scott Boras told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It’s unlikely the soon-to-be 40-year-old Ankiel will continue his bid to return to the game, though, Goold writes.
Ankiel, who last played in the majors in 2013, first declared his intention to come back last August. Although Ankiel hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2004, he was hoping to return as a southpaw reliever. However, Ankiel hasn’t bounced back from the surgery he underwent in November to repair his damaged left ulnar collateral ligament, per Goold, who hears that his recovery has “plateaued.”
Had Ankiel been healthy, it seems he would have been given a realistic chance to vie for a spot with the Cardinals – who originally chose him in the second round of the 1997 draft. According to Goold, the Cardinals checked on Ankiel sometime in the past month to see if he was in shape to sign a minor league contract, but president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t hear back.
Ankiel shined at times as both a pitcher and a hitter in St. Louis. In 2000, his best season as a hurler, Ankiel notched a 3.50 ERA with 3.4 fWAR and 9.98 K/9 against 4.63 BB/9 over 175 innings. A lack of control became a major problem for Ankiel the year after, however, and an extreme case of the yips forced him to transition from the mound to the outfield.
Ankiel didn’t garner a large number of at-bats in a season until 2007, the beginning of a two-year stretch in which he slashed .270/.334/.515 (120 wRC+) with 36 home runs and 3.1 fWAR in 653 plate appearances. Ankiel went on to appear in the majors in each of the next five seasons, also spending time with the Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets, but experienced limited success with those clubs.