Former Cardinals pitcher turned slugger Rick Ankiel is making a strong bid to make Washington's opening day roster.
The 31-year-old outfielder is hitting a modest .231. But he's already smacked two homers in 13 at bats of Grapefruit League play. He's had a problem with striking out in the past. But this spring Ankiel has whiffed only twice against one walk. He has also shown his versatility, playing all over the outfield.
Ankiel played centerfield Monday for the Nats and had a homer with a run scored and a pair of RBIs in two at bats against the Astros. His blow came in a nine-run eighth inning that saw Washington rally from an 8-5 deficit to an eventual 14-9 win.
A .251 career hitter in seven seasons with St. Louis -- including four when he was a pitcher -- Ankiel's best year came in 2008 when he hit .264 with 25 homers and 75 RBIs in 120 games before he went down with an injury. Ankiel couldn't recapture the magic in an injury-plagued 2009 season and in 2010 he found himself in the uniform of the Kansas City Royals. He hit .261 with four homers in 27 games but, once again, couldn't stay on the field because of injuries. He was traded to the Braves near the non-waiver trade deadline where he got off to a hot start before crashing to a .210 average and nine homers.
Washington could be Ankiel's last chance to try to stick in the majors as an everyday player. It seems that the clock has just run out on a guy who has a promising bat but had to try to learn to hit major league pitching at an advanced age.