Rick Ankiel is retiring

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Via our own Matthew Pouliot, who was watching the Cardinals spring training broadcast just now when the announcers revealed this: Rick Ankiel has officially retired and apparently hopes to join a front office in some capacity.

Ankiel ended up having just one good full season as a position player after his hugely promising pitching career was ruined by extreme control problems, but event that’s pretty damn remarkable considering he didn’t become a full-time hitter until age 27.

Ankiel smacked 25 homers in 413 at-bats for the Cardinals in 2008, but then hit just .229 with a grand total of 38 homers and a .676 OPS in 431 games from 2009-2013 while bouncing around with a bunch of different teams.

It’s a shame we never got to see what he was fully capable of as a pitcher, because based on his minor-league track record, stud prospect status, and excellent rookie season he was on a path to become one of the best left-handers in baseball. He still ended up having a very memorable career, though, and made an awful lot of fans along the way.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.