Mets sign Ankiel

ST. LOUIS — The New York Mets signed Rick Ankiel and started him in center field on Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that converted him from wild pitcher to outfielder.

The 33-year-old Ankiel thought it a bit comforting he returned to the majors in St. Louis, where he arrived as a hard-throwing lefty starter in 1999 but couldn’t control his pitches. He’s been an outfielder since 2005 and hit a career-best 25 homers with 71 RBI for the Cardinals in 2008.

“Obviously, I’ve played here in Busch Stadium quite a bit, and it’s just kind of ironic the first game back is here in St. Louis,” Ankiel said before the game. “But it’ll be fun and I’m excited to get out there.”

Ankiel, recently cut loose by the last-place Houston Astros, received a smattering of cheers each at-bat.

Ankiel said he’d been in contact with the Mets the last two days while at home in Fort Pierce, Fla., and acknowledged he hadn’t been sure he’d get another shot. He hit .194 with five homers and 11 RBI for Houston, which had signed him to a $750,000, one-year deal. He struck out 35 times in 65 at-bats with the Astros.

“You don’t know, you really don’t,” Ankiel said. “I figured I would, and I was hoping I would and it did.”

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