Rick Ankiel Says He Is Planning Yet Another Unlikely Comeback, This Time As A Relief Pitcher
Rick Ankiel already has one of Major League Baseball’s most unusual careers and now, five years into retirement, he says he’s planning a comeback, again. This time the 39-year-old says he is going to return as a relief pitcher.
As you may or may not recall, Ankiel burst on to the scene in 2000 at the age of 20 going 11–7 with a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts as a starting pitcher with a 94 to 97-mph fastball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Those impressive stats were enough for him to finish in second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
In the first game of postseason that year, Ankiel started the National League Division Series against Greg Maddux of the Braves. After not allowing a run in the first two innings, Ankiel suddenly developed the yips, allowing four runs on two hits, four walks and five wild pitches while recording only two outs before being removed.
Unfortunately for Ankiel, and the Cardinals, things didn’t get any better in his next start as he didn’t make it out of the first inning, throwing only 20 pitches, five of them wild. That was followed by a relief appearance in which Ankiel faced four hitters, walking two and throwing two more wild pitches.
After walking 25 batters and throwing five wild pitches in his first 24 innings of 2001, Ankiel was demoted to Triple-A where things got even worse. He walked 17 batters and threw 12 wild pitches in just 4-1/3 innings and being demoted all the way down to Rookie League.
Then in 2005, after seemingly conquering the yips, Ankiel announced he was chaning positions and would be playing the outfield.
Amazingly, by 2007 he was back in the big leagues, playing outfield, the position he played until his retirement after the 2013 season.
Now Ankiel, who works as an analyst on Fox Sports Midwest’s Cardinals’ broadcasts, says he is planning yet another comeback, this time back on the mound.
“I’ve been working with a kid who’s got the yips, throwing with him for the last two months or so, and it’s felt really good, so it’s kind of been peddling it around, starting to get the itch,” Ankiel told viewers. “And you know, when I take a look at pros and cons, I can make a whole list of pros, I got nothing on the cons, zero. My kids want to see me play, and I’m at a place right now personally where I could care less if I throw the ball off the backstop. It doesn’t matter. And when you take a look at baseball, the game has swung back around to my style of pitching, you talk about the big curveball, fastball. So I figured why not come back as a lefty reliever and put one more chapter on my book?”
A lefty reliever with a good fastball and curve? He’s definitely on the right side of supply and demand in that regard.