Rick Ankiel, now hitting home runs for the Nationals, was once a phenom pitcher for the Cardinals.
If there was ever a player to have lived a tale of two lives, it would be Rick Ankiel. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round in 1997, Ankiel came up in '99 and made an immediate impact. In just 33 innings that season, Ankiel struck out 39 batters.
He continued that success into the 2000 season, when he won 11 games and struck out nearly 200 batters. That year, he helped the Cards reach the postseason, which in turn wound up being the beginning of the end of his days as a pitcher.
During that postseason, the wheels came completely off for the left-hander. In two series (NLDS against the Braves and NLCS against the Mets), Ankiel pitched a total of four innings.
He walked 11 batters, allowed five hits and seven earned runs--amassing a hefty 15.75 ERA in the playoffs. He also managed to uncork nine wild pitches, including five in one inning against the Braves.
While a good portion of his problems were mental, Ankiel did suffer from an elbow sprain that caused him to miss the entire 2002 season. And though he returned to minor league pitching in 2003, that July he underwent Tommy John surgery.
He would take a Major League mound just five more times in 2004. On March 9, 2005 he "retired" from baseball as a pitcher, with the intention of becoming a full-time outfielder. And he did just that. In 2007, he returned to the Cardinals big league roster as an outfielder, and slugged 11 home runs in 172 at bats.
Overall, since his transition to hitter/outfielder, Ankiel has a .248 batting average, 56 home runs and 185 RBI. Not exactly eye-popping, Ruthian-like numbers, but none too shabby for a former pitcher.