Cardinals move Ankiel to bullpen

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rick Ankiel just wants another chance to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals, even if that means coming out of the bullpen.

Ankiel, who missed all of last season with an elbow injury and struggled in the past with wildness, has been shifted from a starter to a reliever in a move meant to ease the pressure on him.

''I'm healthy and I'm happy,'' with the change, Ankiel said Saturday as the Cardinals opened spring training. ''It's a trial, but I guess maybe it's normal to go to the bullpen coming off an injury.''

Once one of the most promising young left-handers in baseball, Ankiel has not been able to overcome an embarrassing bout of wildness in the 2000 playoffs.

But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa believes Ankiel could find success pitching in relief, saying his new role ''could give us the best left-handed bullpen we've had since we've been here.''

Ankiel joins left-handers Steve Kline, Jeff Fassero and Lance Painter coming out of the St. Louis bullpen.

''(Ankiel's) excited. It will be a fun role for him,'' La Russa said. ''The preparation is different. Instead of getting ready to throw 100 to 120 pitches once every five days, he'll be asked to throw 15 to 20 pitches several times a week.''

Being a starter ''can be a lot of pressure for a young player,'' La Russa said. ''Now, he'll be a piece of the game but a very important piece.''

The 23-year-old Ankiel won 11 games as a rookie in 2000 but has struggled with his health and control since. He last pitched in the majors in May 2001.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When Aaron Boone wanted pointers on his move to second base, he didn't have to leave the family.

The Cincinnati Reds infielder got advice -- and some anticipated criticism -- from his older brother Bret, who won a Gold Glove at second base with the Reds before he was traded.

''Bret is a tough critic,'' Aaron Boone said. ''He thinks second base is like being an NFL quarterback, that you have to be born with a special talent to play it.''

Aaron, who is 6-foot-2, will find out soon enough whether he has the versatility to play his third position in two seasons.

His father, manager Bob Boone, asked him to move from third base to second after Todd Walker was traded to Boston. The move opens a spot for Brandon Larson to play third, his natural position.

''When I said, 'Yes, I'll do this,' I did it because I thought I could do it,'' Aaron said. ''And it has gone better than that, a lot more natural and comfortable than I thought it would. I feel I can be good at it, not just plug a hole.''

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Angels

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who was a 20-year-old rookie when he went 5-0 in the postseason last fall, isn't expected in camp until Sunday at the earliest. Rodriguez has been delayed because a strike canceled flights from his native Venezuela.

Right-hander Ramon Ortiz also is reporting late because of visa problems in his native Dominican Republic.

Reliever Brenden Donnelly felt tightness in his shoulder and didn't throw off the mound Saturday, the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers.

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Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- When Steve Avery walked away from baseball during spring training in 2001, he figured he was finished. His surgically repaired shoulder didn't feel right and he no longer had a desire to pitch.

Two years later, the former Atlanta Braves left-hander is trying to earn a spot with the Detroit Tigers, the team he rooted for as a kid.

The 33-year-old Avery, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Taylor, Mich., and now lives in Dearborn, signed a minor league contract with the Tigers last month and is in training camp as a non-roster player.

Detroit manager Alan Trammell said Avery is a long shot to make the team, but he's not ruling it out.

''I just want to throw well,'' Avery said. ''Making a team, the only way I'm going to do that is if I worry about myself. I can't worry about how everyone else is throwing or the way I'm being perceived by other people.''

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MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Dusty Baker's message is clear: everyone gets a fresh start and a clean slate in his first spring training as manager of the Chicago Cubs.

That's a really good deal for Kyle Farnsworth, a reliever with a 100 mph fastball who struggled last season on the field and had some problems off it.

''He was on a real fast track and fell off track last year,'' Baker said of his 26-year-old setup man, who faces competition this spring for a spot in Chicago's revamped bullpen.

''I've been told a lot of things about him, mostly negative,'' Baker said. ''When you are 26, good looking and single, you have a lot of temptations.''

Farnsworth's dedication and maturity came into question. For instance, he arrived late for at least one game last season.

He also spent nearly two months on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his right foot.

''Last year is something I want to totally forget,'' said Farnsworth, who'd been one of the NL's top setup relievers in 2001 with a 2.74 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 76 games.

''He needs to get his confidence back,'' Baker said.



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