Rick Ankiel likely won't be playing for the Springfield Cardinals, or any other St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, this season.
Ankiel's determined quest to become a big-league outfielder has been shelved until next season after the former pitching phenom recently underwent surgery on his left knee, said Adam Olsen, the organization's rehabilitation coordinator.
"We're going to be conservative with it and just get him ready for next year," Olsen said by phone Thursday. "He did just about everything right, but that last step, he still had trouble."
Ankiel suffered an injury early in spring training and was scheduled to begin taking batting practice, possibly seeing playing time, too, this month.
But the 26-year-old, on the mend at the organization's spring training headquarters in Jupiter, Fla., began suffering from tendonitis in his patellar tendon just below his left knee.
Ankiel underwent what Olsen described as minor surgery on May 26.
"We did it so he'll be good for next year," Olsen said.
The decision to hold Ankiel back until next season further delays what was becoming a successful turnaround following the left-hander's decision in March 2005 to ditch his pitching career and move to the outfield.
Ankiel hit 21 home runs in 321 minor-league at-bats combined last season for Springfield and the organization's Low-A affiliate in Davenport, Iowa.
That included 10 homers and 30 RBIs in Springfield's final 28 games — an impressive finish considering Ankiel opened the season with only one hit in his first 20 at-bats.
However, he finished the season with a combined batting average of .258 (83-for-321), with 17 doubles and 75 RBIs. He also struck out 37 times and drew 27 walks.
All of which led St. Louis to place Ankiel on its 40-man roster last fall, just hours before he was to become a free agent. He has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 1.
"We built around a pretty good window which will give him plenty of time (to get healthy) so we don't have to rush him," Olsen said. "We realized we just weren't going to get to where we wanted to."