Ankiel's (elbow) attempt at return to the big leagues appears over, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Ankiel was attempting to return as a pitcher 15 years after throwing his last major-league pitch, but elbow surgery in October set him back significantly. The plan was always a long shot, and the delay will probably wind up being enough for the 39-year-old to cancel his efforts entirely.
Ankiel played catch Wednesday for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in October, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports.
Initial reports following Ankiel's surgery suggested that he wouldn't be able to throw until the summer, but he's apparently well ahead of that schedule. Ankiel is now targeting June for his return to competitive action as a pitcher 15 years after he threw his last major-league pitch. The 39-year-old is unsigned and likely will remain in the free-agent pool until he stages a showcase once he's further along in the recovery process.
Ankiel underwent "ligament reattachment" elbow surgery in October and expects to be sidelined from throwing until early summer, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports.
Ankiel required a surgical procedure after experiencing pain while pursuing his return to the big leagues as a pitcher. The difference between this route and Tommy John surgery is that ligament reattachment or "primary repair" mends the existing ligament back to the bone instead of requiring a full replacement. In turn, the timetable is shorter, though it remains to be seen just how quickly Ankiel can bounce back, especially considering he previously underwent Tommy John in 2003. The 39-year-old will continue to rehab in Jupiter, Florida, at the St. Louis Cardinals' facility.
Ankiel announced Monday that he plans to pursue a comeback to professional baseball in 2019 as a relief pitcher, FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Ankiel, who turned 39 years old in July, began his career on the mound and dazzled with a 3.50 ERA in his first full MLB campaign in 2000 before suffering from significant control problems in the postseason that same year. The control issues persisted the following season, and Ankiel's inability to rediscover his rookie form coupled with a Tommy John surgery thrown in along the way prompted him to reinvent himself as an outfielder beginning in 2005. Ankiel went on to slug 74 home runs over parts of seven seasons with six teams before announcing his retirement in 2014. After throwing against college hitters in a recent exhibition event in Louisville, Ankiel was apparently motivated to give pitching in the professional ranks one last try, so he'll take the next few months to get back in playing shape and attempt to land a minor-league contract ahead of spring training.