Former dominant pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel was released by the Washington Nationals midway through this past season after struggling heavily at the plate. This has prompted what once seemed highly unlikely: Rick Ankiel may return to pitching.
Ankiel’s story is quite interesting. Back in 2000, his first full season as a pitcher in St. Louis, he threw a 97 mile per hour fastball that catapulted him to the upper tier of pitchers in the National League. In that season, he recorded a 3.50 ERA and racked up 194 strikeouts. Then out of nowhere, Rick Ankiel turned into Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, as his two post-season starts in 2000 were a blur of wild pitches and inconsistency. Something had gone terribly wrong, as Ankiel had lost all control over his pitching.
After being injured in 2002 and 2003, Ankiel decided to make the drastic switch from pitcher to everyday player, and he actually became a pretty successful outfielder given the circumstances. He even drilled 25 home runs in 2008 as a member of the Cardinals. However, his days as an outfielder were a series of ups and downs, ultimately resulting in his release by the Nationals in 2012.
Now, Rick Ankiel is looking to regain his form on the mound to break back into the big leagues. It’s hard to conceive that he will be successful but hey, I’m rooting for him. What an amazing story it would be if Ankiel was able to make the transition from pitcher, to outfielder, and back to pitcher. It will be interesting to see what teams are willing to take a flyer on Ankiel should his return to pitching progress well.
-Jim Racalto (Sports-Kings Co-Founder)