SAN DIEGO – Shoulder problems? By listening to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa commenting on center fielder Rick Ankiel prior to Wednesday night’s game in San Diego, it sounded like there might be a chance that Ankiel would be ready to play this weekend against the Dodgers.


“Unless he has a setback, I think there’s a good chance he’ll play there,” La Russa told the team’s website in a pregame press conference.


Fast forward to the eighth inning. Though it is his right shoulder giving him problems, you still hate to see a player as crucial as Ankiel rush back to action too quickly. But as usual, La Russa knew more than he was letting on and sent him to the plate to pinch hit for Ron Villone. With a 3-1 count, Ankiel sent a fastball into the right field stands to extend to Cardinals lead to 11-3.


After missing five games because of discomfort in his non-throwing shoulder, his teammates probably would have been fine to see him simply make contact. But the blast removed any doubt as to whether he is game ready and gave La Russa the confidence to let the league’s game-winning RBI leader return to center field. Now the Cardinals can return to fielding their strongest defensive outfield with Ankiel in center, Skip Schumaker in left, and Ryan Ludwick in right.


The homer was Ankiel’s seventh of the season and leaves him third in home runs on the team trailing only Ludwick (12) and Albert Pujols (11).




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