As you surely know by now reports everywhere have Rick Ankiel joining the Royals for the 2010 season with a mutual option for 2011. There is no question that Ankiel is an athlete with great physical skills having reached the big leagues back in 1999 as a much ballyhooed pitching prospect at the tender age of 19.
Of course his struggles as a pitcher, starting so visibly in the 2000 NLDS and NLCS, are now a part of both Cardinals and recent baseball lore. What makes his story compelling was his ability to return to the minor leagues and climb back to the big leagues as a position player.
He is not the first player in Royals history to have reach the big leagues as both a pitcher and position player. The most recent was reliever Ron Mahay who actually made his MLB debut as an outfielder with the Red Sox in 1995. The outfieder version of Mahay didn’t last long and he returned to the minors in 1996 where he took a shot at pitching.
By 1997 he was back in Boston as a member of their bullpen and has been in the big leagues ever since toiling for a multitude of teams including the Royals. Kansas City fans will also remember that shortstop Tony Pena Jr began a similar try the reverse tranformation last year and will continue that hope in 2010 in the San Francisco Giants organization.
Former Royals pitcher Al Fitzmorris is another player that made a position switch going from minor league outfielder to big league pitcher. Though Fitzy never made it to the show as an outfielder, his offensive skills allowed him to hit .242 (24-109) as a pitcher with the Royals mostly in the seasons before the advent of the designated hitter.
From all accounts Ankiel is also a fearless outfield defender perfectly willing to hit the wall in pursuit of an out.
Ankiel’s story both on the field and off has certainly been interesting and hopefully his skills will all come together this season here in Kansas City. His progress should be part of the intrigue of the 2010 Royals season.
Welcome to Kansas City Rick!