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05/21/08 10:25 PM ET

Ankiel likely to return this weekend

Center fielder swings bat for a second day without pain

SAN DIEGO -- Rick Ankiel is inching closer to active duty for the Cardinals, with an anticipated return date sometime over this weekend in Los Angeles.

Ankiel took batting practice on the field on Wednesday, the second day in a row that he swung a bat in BP. That's a significant step for Ankiel, who is coping with a sore right shoulder, because he is more limited at the plate than in any other area of the game.

It's particularly encouraging that Ankiel swung on Tuesday, and felt good enough on Wednesday to repeat the activity.

"He wasn't holding anything back," manager Tony La Russa said.

Ankiel last played on Friday at home. He sustained some right shoulder soreness on an awkward swing, though he remained in the game. The outfielder has sat out five straight games since then. It appears, however, that Dodger Stadium will bring his return to the lineup.

"Unless he has a setback, I think there's a good chance he'll play there," La Russa said.

That will be a boost for St. Louis, which misses Ankiel's play at the plate and in the field. Ankiel is enjoying a strong season offensively, and he's absolutely excelled defensively.

According to "Revised Zone Rating," a metric kept by Baseball Information Solutions, Ankiel has been the most effective defensive center fielder in baseball this year. By the same measure, Skip Schumaker has been one of the most effective right fielders, but significantly less successful in center -- where he serves as the primary alternative to Ankiel.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.