To make room for Ankiel on the active roster, the Cardinals optioned infielder Tyler Greene to Triple-A Memphis.
Ankiel, who was eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, has been battling a pain in his rib since his scary collision with an outfield wall on May 4. However, he arrived at the ballpark early Sunday morning and was pronounced ready to go.
"He worked out for a little bit and he feels good," La Russa said Sunday morning. "Today is like tomorrow. If he's ready to go tomorrow, might as well go today."
Ankiel had spent only two innings in right field a year ago, but has played 28 career games at the position. He had played exclusively in center before the injury, but the emergence of rookie Colby Rasmus as a viable center fielder allows the Cardinals to ease Ankiel back into action defensively.
"I think it is a good way to bring him back," La Russa said. "It's something that he doesn't have to worry about -- bring him in easy."
Ankiel deferred questions on his return until after the game, saying only, "I'm excited to get back in there."
Greene batted .263 with two home runs and four RBIs in 13 games.
Ankiel, who missed 17 games, was hitting .247 with two home runs and 11 RBIs before going down.
After getting ace Chris Carpenter back on Wednesday, the Cardinals now await the return of outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who has a strained hamstring and is eligible to come off the DL on Friday.
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.