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A Couple of Articles on Rick Ankiel

Migrant Redbird

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Currently leading his team in at bats, BA, and total bases in spring training, but trailing Pujols by 1 in home runs and 2 in RBIs. Cards Spring Training Stats

Palm Beach Post: After turbulent times, Ankiel changing course

Before they reached their Fort Pierce home that night, Rick told his father he was done trading his time with friends for baseball. [At age 14]

"Oh, no, you're not!" Richard exploded.

If his son resented him, resented the game, so be it. Richard Ankiel figured the sacrifices were worth it if Rick reached the majors.

"He was tired of the grind. Tired of the game," Richard says one recent afternoon from his home in Fort Pierce. "Maybe I was hard on him, but I just didn't want him to quit before he knew whether he could do it. ...

.... Richard's relentless training regimen eventually paid off. As a junior at Port St. Lucie High School, Rick's physique caught up with his skills.

.... "I don't think he really wanted it until he started seeing the ball go for 370-foot homers and throwing 90 mph," Richard says of his son's own determination to make it to the bigs.

.... he and his father agreed that pitching was his ticket to the majors, even if Rick wasn't necessarily content with putting down his bat for good.

"I don't think he was ever happy being a pitcher," Richard says. "He was so dominant a pitcher that pitching seemed the way to go. But was he really happy doing it? No. Anybody that knows him knows that."

.... Rick has goals beyond the baseball field this year, and that's another new approach for him. He and Lory are trying to start a family.

"I hope I have a boy," he says, smiling while sitting at a picnic table one morning outside the Cardinals' spring training clubhouse.

Post Dispatch: Ankiel ready to provide protection?

Spring training's final two weeks are all about timing, in this instance whether a 28-year-old converted pitcher with fewer than 300 career major-league at-bats is ready to provide protection for one of the game's most prolific hitters, first baseman and No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols.

Of Ankiel's 259 major-league at-bats, 172 followed last season's Aug. 9 promotion from Class AAA Memphis. Twenty extra-base hits included 11 home runs, and 49 hits produced 39 RBIs. Ankiel's final .285 average included a two-for-29 fade after a revelation in September of past HGH use and 41 strikeouts.

.... "I don't want even to go there right now," Ankiel said about hitting behind Pujols. "Let's keep it: 'See ball, hit ball.' Whatever lineup is picked, that's what happens.

.... Ankiel struck out 131 times between Class AAA Memphis and St. Louis last season. Plate discipline has been one of the themes to his camp. He has as many walks (four) as strikeouts in 47 at-bats so far.

"There's the cliché: It's hard to put a good swing on a bad pitch," said Ankiel. "Looking back at last year, the thing I could improve on was pitch selection. I feel like that's one thing that's evolving for me as a hitter. I like where I'm at."

I'm pulling for Ankiel to demonstrate this season that he's really the best athlete on the team and that last year was no fluke. Barring injuries, I believe he will do it. Injuries are always the wild card.

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