…followed soon by his exit from baseball? The latest Ankiel twist, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss.

Cardinals lefthander Rick Ankiel, once deemed the game’s most promising young arm, will convert from pitcher to outfielder, effective immediately.

The Cardinals confirmed the move Wednesday morning shortly after rain washed out what was scheduled to be Ankiel’s spring debut in a B game against the Florida Marlins.

“We are fully supportive of Rick’s decision to convert to an everyday outfielder,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said in a prepared statement. “Rick will continue to train with the major league club this spring, and we look forward to seeing his development as a full-time batter and outfielder.”

The unexpected announcement comes after Ankiel, 25, gave a promising September showing in the Redbirds bullpen followed by a credible performance as a starter in the Puerto Rican winter league. The winter league stint was cut short by elbow tenderness.

This spring, Ankiel (above) has struggled with command and had been pulled from pitchers field drills before experiencing erratic command in batting practice.

“I just felt like after Puerto Rico, coming back when I was hurt there, I changed mechanically. Just coming back, I couldn’t really replicate it,” Ankiel said. “This whole time, that frustration has built up. I just really felt like it was eroding my spirits and starting to affect my personality off the field as well.

“The frustration . . . it just became apparent it was time for me to move on and pursue becoming an outfielder.”

“… Not being able to go out there and be effective, not being able to replicate my mechanics, the frustration and the way it effects me off the field — it just wasn™t worth it. I feel relieved now and I™m happy to move on.”

Ankiel hit .250 with two homers and nine RBIs for the Cards in 2000. After being sent to Johnson City of the Appalachian League in 2001, he got 105 at-bats as a designated hitter and hit .286 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs. In 134 minor-league at-bats since 2001, Ankiel has a .575 slugging percentage.

The Cardinals plan to immediately integrate Ankiel into their outfield. In the “players” database on Major League Baseball’s official web site (mlb.com), Ankiel already is listed as a left fielder.

Because he is out of options, Ankiel must either make the club or be put through waivers.