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Ankiel to go National

Former Cardinals pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel has caught on with a new club.

Despite a lousy 2010 season split between Kansas City and Atlanta, Ankiel has signed a major league contract with Washington with a chance to win the left field job just opened when Josh Willingham was traded away.

Ankiel will make $1.5 million in the one-year deal. reports he could make up to another $1.25 million in incentives based on plate appearances.

He hit only .232 last season with the Royals and Braves, missing about half the season with lingering injuries.

Ankiel is a .248 hitter over eight seasons, including his first four in which he was a pitcher. He made it to the majors in 1999 but was out of the big leagues from 2002 until nearly the end of 2004 because of terrible problems with his control. He then retired as a pitcher and missed out on the 2005, 2006 and half of the 2007 seasons as he recast himself as a power hitting outfielder.

He hit .285 in 47 games in 2007 with 11 homers including a pair in his first game back in the big leagues as a fly chaser. But he sagged to .264 -- albeit with 25 homers -- in 463 at bats in 2008 and hit only .231 with 11 homers in 2008 for the Cardinals before leaving as a free agent at the end of the season.

He may end up to be something of a footnote in Cardinals history. But it was amazing to see Ankiel perform so well at times as a pitcher and then prove that he had a major league power bat. One thing I'll never forget is watching him launch two homers in his unveiling as a slugger.