Cardinals' Ankiel Wild in Workout

Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Rick Ankiel is having trouble finding the plate again.

The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher drilled the back screen a couple times Monday and bounced a few more pitches in front of catcher Mike Matheny during a 40-pitch sequence.

``Erratic,'' was manager Tony La Russa's assessment. ``But (pitching coach Dave Duncan) gave him a couple of keys and he got back on it.''

Ankiel, asked if he felt out of whack, smiled weakly and said, ``You know the answer to that question.''

Asked if Duncan's suggestions had helped him, Ankiel responded, ``I hope so.''

In the playoff opener against Atlanta last Oct. 3, Ankiel became the first pitcher in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in one inning of a major league game, the first since Sept. 15, 1890, when Bert Cunningham did it for Buffalo of the Players League.

Ankiel, in his second season with the Cardinals, threw far better in his first session of the spring on Saturday.

``I feel for him. I hurt for him,'' said Matheny, behind the plate for both sessions. ``He's going to be all right but it's something we can't do for him, no matter how hard we want to.''

Duncan also used the word ``erratic.'' But he added, ``There's an issue being made of this and it's in his mind, so he's thinking about it. If he does get a little erratic, it compounds itself and turns into a physical thing.''

Ankiel's throwing group is scheduled to face hitters Wednesday for the first time, but Duncan said he didn't think Ankiel was ready for that yet.