Anything Left In The Tank?

Right-hander Dennis Tankersley and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed Tuesday to a minor league contract.

The 26-year-old right-handed pitcher pitched for the Kansas City Royals' Triple-A Omaha farm team last season and went 9-8 with a 4.24 ERA in 23 starts and nine relief appearances.

Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 38th round of the 1998 draft, the Meramec (Mo) junior college pitcher, eventually signed with Boston in May of 1999.

Prior to the deal in 2000, that sent Tankersley from Boston to San Diego along with SS Cesar Saba for 3B Ed Sprague, the 6'2 185 pound right hander was virtually an unknown.

With the Padres, Tankersley developed into a top pitching prospect with success at the Class A and AA level. Class A California League managers went so far as to ranked Dennis as the best pitching prospect in the California League in 2001.

In that same season, Tankersley was selected the Padres' minor league pitcher of the year after going 10-4 with a 1.98 ERA in 25 games. In spite of these very impressive numbers, he struggled down the stretch that year. In three starts with AAA Portland, Dennis went 1-2 with a 6.91 ERA. Reports at the time indicated that Tankersley's arm was worn out and it was suggested by some coaches that he should work in the off season to add strength to his pitching arm.

In spite of his great potential, his struggles continued in 2002 and 2003. In 2002 in 17 games for San Diego, to include nine starts, Tankersley went 1-4 with an 8.06 ERA.

The next season (2003), Tankersley was limited to just one game and one start at the major league level for San Diego and if you look at the record books, don't let his 0.00 ERA impress you. Tankersley failed to record a single out, while giving up seven earned runs in the process.

For all practical purposes, by the time Dennis reached the dugout after that long walk from the mound, Tankersley's career with the Padres was over and the label "Top Prospect" would be issued to someone else with potential.

In November of 2004, Dennis was traded by the Padres to the Kansas City Royals, in a deal that sent Terrence Long and cash to the Kansas City Royals for Ryan Bukvich and Darrell May.

The outlook for Tankersley for next season is that with St. Louis, he'll be invited to spring training and given an opportunity to be a part of the bullpen.

The losses in the bullpen this winter to include; Al Reyes to Tommy John surgery, who will miss most if not all of next season; Cal Eldred to retirement; Julian Tavarez to free agency and greener (color of money) pastures, and the potential loss of Ray King through a trade, opens the door for someone like a Tankersley to get a shot to make it back to "The Show".

Most likely, Dennis will spend most of the season at AAA Memphis as a starter with the potential of being called up as a reliever if anyone in the bullpen goes down on the disable list (DL).

When he is on, which isn't often, at least not at any level above AA ball, Tankersley has four pitches he can throw for strikes. A four seam fastball that may hit between 92-94 mph and a two-seamer in the low 90s. His slider was once considered his best pitch and his changeup could still use some work.

Once he gets to St. Louis, if there is any "potential" left in his arm, pitching coach Dave Duncan and the other coaches should be able to get it out of him.

The announcement today of his signing, isn't a big deal, it isn't even a good deal, but it isn't a bad deal either.

If Tankersley was smart he would get down to Florida as soon as possible and get in shape and get ready for what may be his last shot at the major leagues.

There have been some questions in the past about Tankersley's physical endurance and we will see soon if there is anything left in his tank, physically or mentally.

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