10 years ago today: Rick Ankiel gets sent down

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Having walked five and thrown two wild pitches the night before, Rick Ankiel was sent down to Triple-A Memphis on this day 10 years ago.  It’d be 3 1/2 years before he returned to the majors and six before he was back for good.

After going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA as a rookie, Ankiel experienced a meltdown in the 2000 postseason.  Named the Cardinals’ Game 1 starter in the NLDS, he threw five wild pitches and walked six on his way to giving up four runs in 2 2/3 innings.  He worked twice more in the NLCS, throwing four wild pitches and walking five in 1 1/3 innings.

The hope was that Ankiel would find his form over the winter, but while he was no longer denting the backstop in spring training, control remained a big problem.  He ended up going 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA in his six starts for the Cardinals.  He struck out 27 in 24 innings, but he also walked 25.

Ankiel then completely lost it at Memphis, walking 17 and throwing 12 wild pitches in 4 1/3 innings.  The Cardinals backed off him for a bit before sending him all of the way down to Rookie ball to get him out of the spotlight.  The treatment worked, as he came back to post a ridiculous 158/18 K/BB in 87 2/3 innings for Johnson City of the Appalachian League.

At that point, Ankiel’s stuff was still some of the best in baseball, and the hope was that he’d come back and emerge as one of the NL’s elite hurlers.  Ankiel, though, went on to miss 2002 with an elbow injury.  Tommy John surgery followed in 2003.  He returned to the majors as a reliever in Sept. 2004 and showed promise.  While he allowed six runs in 10 innings, he posted a 9/1 K/BB ratio in the process. 

Ankiel went on to pitch successfully in Puerto Rico over the winter, but he tweaked his elbow towards the end of the stint and his command issues came back after he rejoined the Cardinals.  On Feb. 28, he threw just three strikes in a 28-pitch batting practice session.  Nine days later, he announced that he’d make the full-time switch to the outfield.

Of course, the story has a semi-happy ending from there.  Ankiel returned to the majors in 2007 and hit 36 homers for the Cardinals in 585 at-bats through the end of 2008.  Unfortunately, he’s dealt with injuries and hasn’t been nearly as productive since. The Nationals opened this season with him as their primary center fielder, but he’s currently on the DL with a sprained right wrist.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 10, Braves 4: The good news: the game went on despite the bad forecast I was worried about yesterday. The bad news: I still didn’t go because (a) I am still sick with the crap I had over the weekend; and (b) in light of that it didn’t seem like a great idea to take a 200-mile, drugged-up round trip with the possibility of sitting in rain delays and getting back home after midnight to see it. So, bad news: I missed my first big league game of the season. Good news: I took more NyQuil and went to bed at 9:30 and slept until after 6, so maybe I’m on the mend. Not that most of you care about that. What you do care about is that Atlanta jumped out to a 2-0 lead and then the wheels fell off with the Reds tying it up on a two-run Scott Schebler homer in the fifth and then scoring five in the sixth, with Jesse Winker‘s bases-loaded single putting them ahead for good. Schebler would later single in another run. Jim Riggleman gets his first win as Reds manager. The game was played in front of the smallest crowd at Great American Ball Park in nine years — 9,463 — so maybe everyone else was home taking NyQuil too.

Yankees 14, Twins 1: Miguel Andujar homered and doubled, Giancarlo Stanton went 4-for-4 with a homer and Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam. Gleyber Torres got his first big league hit. Paul Molitor brought in outfielder Ryan LaMarre to pitch in the eighth and Tyler Austin hit a two-run homer off of him on his four-RBI night. One of them nights, I guess. Andujar is 15-for-29 with eight doubles, a triple and three home runs in his last seven games. That’s hot, my friends.

Indians 2, Orioles 1: Kevin Gausman pitched well — allowing only two runs on four hits over eight innings, including one inning in which he struck out the side in nine pitches — but Carlos Carrasco pitched better, allowing one run on six hits in seven and a third. Yonder Alonso‘s two-run homer in the second was Gausman’s only mistake, but it was a big enough mistake to give the Indians the win.

Athletics 9. Rangers 4: Marcus Semien led off the ninth inning with the game tied at 3. His homer gave the A’s the lead and his teammates piled on five more runs, all with two outs, off of Ranger relievers Kevin Jepsen and Jesse Chavez. Oakland has won seven of eight games and is now 12-11. Not bad for the consensus last place team in the AL West.

White Sox 10, Mariners 4: The White Sox had been losing badly and losing big of late, so putting up seven runs in the first two innings had to make them feel better, at least for one day. They started the game with seven straight hits. Jose Abreu hit two homers and had four hits in all, and six other Pale Hose had an RBI each. Yoan Moncada went 3-for-5 and scored three times.

Angels 2, Astros 0Tyler Skaggs tossed seven shutout innings and Justin Anderson and Keynan Middleton each blanked Houston for a frame to complete the shutout. A Kole Calhoun RBI single and a Justin Upton RBI double was all the scoring the Halos needed. The loss snapped Houston’s six-game winning streak.

Padres 13, Rockies 5: San Diego jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first but it was 4-4 after the bottom half of the inning. The Rockies scored once in the third but the Padres put up nine in the seventh, and that is usually too much to overcome, even in Coors Field. Carlos Asuaje homered and drove in four, Wil Myers had four hits and drove in two and Franchy Cordero, Cory Spangenberg and Matt Szczur each drove in a couple as well.

Dodgers 2, Marlins 1: Welcome to the big leagues, Walker Buehler. The Dodgers prospect made his big league debut and shut out the Marlins for five innings, striking out five while struggling a bit with his command. He didn’t get the win because Jaime Garcia was pretty stingy, allowing only one run over six, but Enrique Hernandez homered in the fourth and Cody Bellinger hit a sac fly in the eighth to give the Dodgers the win. The Dodgers remain hot, moving to 11-10 with their seventh win in eight games.

Giants 4, Nationals 2: The Giants beat the Nats thanks in part to a Mac Williamson two-run homer that flew 464 feet and another run he knocked in via a fielder’s choice. Buster Posey also singled in a run. All the Nats could muster on offense was a pair of sac flies. They were supposed to run away with the NL East but they’re in fourth place, 5.5 games out. It’s early, but no, that’s not what you want.