Pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel has officially retired, according to an announcement made on Wednesday's Cardinals Spring Training broadcast.
The announcement -- made by St. Louis broadcaster Dan McLaughlin -- puts an end to the career of one of the most intriguing players of the past decade and one of the sport's best comeback stories.
Ankiel was released by the Mets on June 11 last season and had been reportedly looking for a contract until Wednesday's broadcast. According to McLaughlin, Ankiel is now hoping to find a front-office job somewhere.
Drafted by the Cardinals in 1997 out of high school in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Ankiel made his Major League debut as a pitcher for St. Louis two years later at age 20. Entering the 2000 season, he was rated the game's top overall prospect by Baseball America.
After a solid regular season, Ankiel came unraveled in the playoffs. He made one start against the Braves in the National League Division Series, in which he allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings and threw five wild pitches. Then, in an NL Championship Series start against the Mets, Ankiel lasted only two-thirds of an inning, throwing five of his 33 pitches to the backstop. After a similarly rough relief outing later in the series, Ankiel had completely lost his control.
He struggled in 2001 and was quickly sent to the Minor Leagues, and a year later he underwent Tommy John surgery. On the mound at least, Ankiel never fully recovered -- though he did pitch 10 innings as a reliever for the Cardinals in 2004.
But always one of the league's more adept pitchers with the bat, Ankiel made a return to the Majors as an outfielder for St. Louis in 2007. That turned out to be Ankiel's best season at the plate, as he posted a .285/.328/.535 slash line with 25 homers.
Ankiel would go on to spend seven seasons as a big league outfielder -- primarily in center -- where he showed off one of the game's best arms.
In total, Ankiel played for six teams, hitting .240 with a career .422 slugging percentage and 76 homers.