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02/10/09 7:02 PM EST

Cardinals nearing hearing for Ankiel

Date with arbitrator set for Thursday; Ludwick slated for Feb. 17

ST. LOUIS -- With each passing day, it appears likelier that the Cardinals will have at least one arbitration hearing in the next week.

The club is scheduled to go to arbitration with outfielder Rick Ankiel on Thursday. General manager John Mozeliak has indicated little optimism that a deal can be reached before a hearing, which would take place in Arizona.

When players and clubs exchanged salaries last month, Ankiel asked for $3.3 million, while the club countered with a $2.35 million offer. A compromise agreement could be worked out up until the start of the hearing, but if no deal is brokered, an arbitrator will pick one of the two figures.

There is no middle ground once a hearing takes place. The arbitrator chooses one side or the other, and that side's number is the player's salary for the coming season.

Outfielder Ryan Ludwick also remains unsigned, with an arbitration hearing slated for Tuesday, Feb. 17. The club holds some sliver of hope that a hearing can be avoided with Ludwick, though the gap between the two sides is wider.

Ludwick asked for $4.25 million, and the Cardinals offered $2.8 million. The gap between Ludwick and the Cardinals is one of the largest of the 46 players for whom numbers were submitted. The difference of $1.45 million was the sixth-greatest, and Ludwick asked for 51.8 percent more than the Cardinals offered -- also sixth-largest.

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