ST. LOUIS (AP) – Rick Ankiel was carted off the field with his head and neck immobilized, then taken to a hospital for tests after the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder slammed headfirst into the fence following a running catch Monday night.

X-rays and a CT scan of Ankiel’s head, neck and back were all negative and showed no fractures, team spokesman Brian Bartow said. Ankiel remained hospitalized overnight for observation and the team said he was day-to-day.

Ankiel chased down Pedro Feliz’s long drive in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies but couldn’t stop himself from crashing into the padded center-field wall. He stayed flat on his back for several minutes as teammates gathered around him, and the game was delayed about 15 minutes as a hush fell over Busch Stadium.

He was placed in a neck brace and strapped to a gurney before being carted off the field accompanied by team physician Dr. George Paletta and trainer Barry Weinberg. As he was wheeled off, Ankiel flashed a thumbs-up sign.

“It’s a scary thing to see, there’s no doubt about it,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. “The fact that when Dr. Paletta saw him and said he was responsive, I think that’s encouraging.”

Paletta told the team Ankiel was responsive on the field and never lost consciousness.

“I hope he’s not hurt,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He made a tremendous play, he gave 110 percent effort. He hit the wall pretty hard, from what I saw.”

When the Phillies’ Ryan Howard saw Ankiel give the thumbs-up, he knew it was a good sign.

“As soon as he hit, the first thing you want is to see him move,” Howard said. “It took a little while, but when he gave the thumbs-up that was a good feeling.”

Ankiel lay motionless for several minutes, telling left fielder Chris Duncan he thought he wasn’t seriously hurt but didn’t want to move.

“I said, ‘Are you all right?”‘ Duncan said. “He said, ‘I think so. I’m just going to lay here.’ It’s pretty scary to see someone run that fast into a wall.”

Paletta also told manager Tony La Russa that Ankiel showed signs of whiplash and puffiness in his face. La Russa said Ankiel hit the wall so hard he dented his cap.

A converted pitcher, Ankiel took 21/2 off-balance steps after making the tough catch and had the presence of mind to take the ball out of his glove before attempting to brace himself with his left arm. Still, his head appeared to absorb most of the blow when he slammed into the fence.

“It was tough, man,” Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse said. “Hopefully, he’s going to be all right. He’s a tough guy.”

Duncan recalled a conversation in Washington this weekend when Ankiel said he considered diving for a ball and Duncan replied, “You probably would have broken your neck.”

“He’s playing Gold Glove center field,” Duncan said. “He plays it more aggressive than anyone I’ve seen. He’s got a lot of range and he makes good plays, but it’s scary.”

AP-ES-05-05-09 0059EDT

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