Ankiel ends Major League comeback attempt

July 31st, 2019

Former Cardinals left-handed pitcher and outfielder told FOX Sports Midwest on Tuesday that he is ending his attempt at a Major League comeback.

Ankiel, 40, had elbow surgery last fall, and the repaired ligament didn't respond when he tried several times to restart his throwing program.

“I gave that a shot," Ankiel said. "About three weeks, four weeks into the throwing program, strained my flexor tendon. And gave it about three weeks after that, came back, tried again, just wasn’t ready.

"They said I needed about five or six more weeks. Took that time off. It just still wasn’t ready, and mathematically when you add it up, what would have been the rest of the season if there were zero setbacks after that. There wasn’t much there.”

Ankiel famously came down with a case of the yips in 2000 when, as a starter for St. Louis, he threw five wild pitches in a single inning during Game 1 of the 2000 National League Division Series against the Braves.

Ankiel never recovered on the mound, and in 2005 he announced he would attempt to make a return to the Majors as an outfielder. He had hit well during his amateur career before making his Major League debut with St. Louis in 1999.

In his first game as an outfielder for the Cardinals on Aug. 9, 2007, Ankiel hit a three-run homer in a 5-0 victory over the Padres. Two games later, he launched two more home runs in a 6-1 win over the Dodgers. He homered twice in a game again on Sept. 6 vs. the Pirates.

In 47 games that season, Ankiel hit .285/.328/.545 with 11 homers before belting 25 homers in 120 games for the Cardinals in 2008. After struggling in '09 (hitting .231/.285/.387 with 11 homers), he signed with the Royals as a free agent. He would go on to play for the Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets before retiring in ‘13.

After pitching in an amateur tournament last year, Ankiel said he felt the itch to return to a Major League mound. Though things didn't work out as he had hoped, Ankiel didn't rule out another comeback attempt down the road.

“Right now, if you ask me today, I am done for sure," he said. "If you ask me four months from now, I don’t know.”