“Rick Ankiel makes me believe that there’s always a way back from the abyss”

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Mike Bates comes to both (gently) bury Rick Ankiel and to praise him. Mostly praise, though.  For while he has struggled mightily so far for the Astros and may very well be getting his last chance as a major leaguer, Bates reminds us that his story is ultimately one of triumph:

Ankiel had never really worked on his hitting against professional players. He was raw and had atrocious (and poetically appropriate) strike zone judgment, but he had tremendous power and was a decent fielder with, of course, an amazing arm from right or center field. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that is so much more of a career than the vast majority of players who have ever played the game. Rick Ankiel not only endured, but he persevered. Regardless of what might have been, he deserves accolades and celebration for what he is.

Good read about a guy that I think almost all of us thought we’d never see again after he stopped pitching. And who, because he has spent seven years on seemingly borrowed time, in many ways beat a system that is supposed to chew up guys who get derailed the way the young Ankiel did.  Even if he never gets another hit in a big league uniform again, Rick Ankiel won.

Cardinals tab Miles Mikolas for Opening Day start

Miles Mikolas
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The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.

The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.

Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.