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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.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

DENVER, CO - JULY 20:  Starting pitcher Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers to home plate during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Chris Archer will take the mound for the Rays on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, opposing Dodgers right-hander Bud Norris in a 10:10 PM EDT start. It’s convenient that what could be Archer’s final start could be right in front of the team with which he eventually lands.

A rival executive told ESPN’s Jayson Stark last week that he believes there’s a “70 percent” chance Archer winds up with the Dodgers. It makes sense, as Archer is arguably the best pitcher — current won-lost record and ERA aside — available heading into the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The Dodgers need an impact pitcher if the club is to keep pace in the NL West and the NL Wild Card races. Entering Tuesday’s action, the Dodgers are 56-44, 2.5 games behind the first-place Giants and holding the first of two Wild Card slots.

The Dodgers, notably, are without Clayton Kershaw, who is dealing with mild disk herniation in his lower back and may require surgery. Hyun-Jin Ryu landed on the disabled list earlier this month after making his only start of the season. Alex Wood underwent an elbow procedure recently and may rejoin the team in mid- to late-September.

Archer is 5-13, with the 13 losses leading all major league starters. He also has an uninspiring 4.60 ERA, but his total of 147 strikeouts is best in the American League. ERA retrodictors like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA believe Archer is anywhere from much better to significantly better than his ERA indicates.

Not that the Dodgers are pinching pennies, but Archer is also relatively affordable through as late as 2021. He’s earning $2.75 million this season, $4.75 in 2017, 6.25 million in ’18, and $7.5 million in ’19. He also has a $9 million club option for 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout and an $11 million club option for ’21 with a $250,000 buyout.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez) @ New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard), 4:05 PM EDT [Game One]

St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia) @ New York Mets (Bartolo Colon), TBD [Game Two]

Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Felix Hernandez) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano), 7:05 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Kyle Hendricks) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Mike Pelfrey) @ Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) @ Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar), 7:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Texas Rangers (Nick Martinez), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Lucas Harrell) @ Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs) @ Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee), 8:15 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Cody Reed) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

Cardinals place Trevor Rosenthal on the disabled list

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Closer Trevor Rosenthal #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have placed reliever Trevor Rosenthal on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. The club recalled Dean Kiekhefer from Triple-A Memphis.

Thus continues a terrible 2016 for Rosenthal, who lost his grip on the closer’s role last month. The right-hander has recorded the save in 14 of 18 chances with a 5.13 ERA and a 48/27 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings. Seung-hwan Oh has handled save situations  for the Cardinals in July.

As the Cardinals are playing a doubleheader against the Mets on Tuesday, the club also recalled Sam Tuivailala to serve as the 26th man on the roster.