Ankiel comeback delayed by elbow surgery

November 7th, 2018

Rick Ankiel's comeback attempt will have to wait a little longer, but he's not giving it up. Ankiel -- who is attempting to make it back to the Major Leagues as a left-handed reliever after five years out of the game and 14 years removed from his last pitching appearance -- has had a left elbow procedure that will delay his comeback attempt for several months, according to multiple reports Wednesday.
According to Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold, Ankiel underwent ligament reattachment surgery last month after experiencing pain in his elbow while preparing to return to pitching. The procedure, called primary repair, is an alternative to Tommy John surgery that doesn't require a full reconstruction of the ligament and allows a shorter rehab period than the year-plus that Tommy John necessitates. Ankiel has already had Tommy John surgery in his career, in July of 2003.
The 39-year-old's comeback attempt will likely be with the Cardinals, the team with which he began his career as a pitcher in 1999. Per Goold's report, St. Louis has a Minor League offer waiting for Ankiel when he is able to resume pitching.
According to Goold, Ankiel has been rehabbing his arm at the Cardinals' facility in Jupiter, Fla., although he is not under contract at this time. The team anticipates him being ready for game action by midseason and wants to give Ankiel an opportunity in the Minors, where he can pitch enough innings for the Cardinals to see whether he's ready for another Major League chance.
"Expectations are that he still wants to give it a try," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Goold at the GM Meetings, confirming that Ankiel had had the surgery.
Ankiel last pitched in the Majors in 2004, after a famous struggle with "the yips." After a breakout rookie season with St. Louis in '00, when he was the National League Rookie of the Year runner-up, Ankiel lost his control during the playoffs, throwing nine wild pitches and walking 11 batters in three postseason outings.
He later reinvented himself as a power-hitting outfielder and made it back to the big leagues with the Cardinals in 2007. He played seven more Major League seasons, hitting 74 home runs (including 25 in '08), with his last game as a hitter coming in '13.
This summer, he returned to the mound for the first time in a brief relief appearance at the Bluegrass World Series in Kentucky, where his team of former big leaguers faced off against college teams. That rekindled his desire to pitch professionally.