Ankiel went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA as a starting pitcher during the 2000 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. But the lefthander suffered previously-unseen control problems – uncorking five wild pitches in a single inning – during a 2000 playoff game, and has not recovered to his previous form on the mound ever since. After a horrific start in the major leagues to the 2001 season, Ankiel missed all of 2002 due to injury. He spent the duration of the 2003 season at Double-A Tennessee before performing well enough to earn a big league callup in 2004.
However, Ankiel's control difficulties flared up again during spring training this season, and he announced his intentions to give up a pitching career in order to pursue a career as an outfielder. After being projected to start the season at Quad Cities, Ankiel performed well enough in spring training to start the season with Double-A Springfield.
Ankiel was originally selected in the second round of the 1997 draft. The 25-year-old has had a successful career as a hitter. He batted .250 in the major leagues for St. Louis in 2000, blasting two home runs in 68 at-bats. While on the road back to the big leagues in 2001, Ankiel batted .286 with ten home runs and 35 RBI for Rookie-level Johnson City, earning a spot on the league's post-season All-Star team.
For his minor league career, Ankiel has batted .254 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI, including a 1-for-20 start this season at Double-A Springfield.
Knoff, a righthander acquired in the Double A phase of the Rule Five draft from Cincinnati, had been effective out of the Swing bullpen, going 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 17 outings. He had struck out 27 but walked 14 in 22 innings.
UP NEXT: The Swing return to John O'Donnell Stadium tonight to begin an eight-game homestand with the first of four games against the Lansing Lugnuts. The Swing will send Mike Parisi (1-4, 5.04) to the mound against Juan Perez (2-3, 5.94). First pitch is scheduled for 7:00, and pregame coverage on Progressive Talk AM 1270 will begin at 6:45. Tickets are available to all Swing home games by calling (563) 328-2000.
PROMOTION: Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins will be at John O'Donnell Stadium on Monday night, signing autographs and meeting with fans.
HOMESTAND REPORT: The Swing's upcoming homestand starts Monday and runs through Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. The stand will feature numerous promotions, including a special appearance from BirdZerk! Saturday night. The Wednesday night ball game will be a Hooters/97 Rock beverage night as usual. Friday night will feature the Dispatch/Argus Swing T-shirt giveaway and Sunday night will be a 7:00 start time followed by post-game fireworks, courtesy of KWQC-TV6.