Tag:Mark Prior
Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:30 pm

Prior commited to winning job in Yanks' pen

TAMPA -- The corner locker in a big-league clubhouse is the perfect location for a player who enjoys sitting back and observing.

In the Yankees' clubhouse, Mark Prior occupies one of the corner lockers. But he's done enough observing over the past several years, thank you very much.

Here to win a job in the club's bullpen, Prior knows there is every chance he may open the season in Triple-A. And that's OK by him, as long as his troubled right shoulder stays intact and allows him what probably is this one last chance to finish a career on his terms, and not those of his shoulder.

Adding a touch of nostalgia to the spring is that Prior is reunited with new Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The two worked together for five seasons in Chicago, nearly helping to push the Cubs into the World Series in 2003.

"So far, he's been good," Rothschild said. "Arm-wise, he's feeling good. ... We need to go in progression to build him up.

"The bullpen is where he's going to be, I think. It's what his arm can handle."

In two spring innings so far, Prior has allowed neither a hit nor a run. He's struck out three, and walked one.

"If he's right, he's going to win some games for the Yankees this year," one big-league scout who saw Prior pitch last summer said.

From his perch at the corner locker after another morning of work recently, Prior was pleased with the way things are going. His latest comeback started in earnest last summer pitching for an independent league team in Fullerton, Calif., where he showed enough that the Rangers signed him to a minor-league deal. He pitched one minor-league inning in a Triple-A game near season's end, and then one inning in a minor-league playoff game.

"I think it's there," he said. "Like everybody, there are things I need [work on]. I'm trying to find the release point on my breaking ball."

The good?

"I feel like the ball's coming out of my hand free," he said. "I'm not pushing it."

Since cranking it up in Fullerton last summer, Prior said he's throwing the ball "a lot better. I'm more efficient. I'm not on top of the ball."

Prior, still just 30, has not pitched in the majors since 2006. Rothschild believes his shoulder has never been the same since his '03 collision with infielder Marcus Giles. Then, in '05, he suffered a compression fracture in his elbow when he was drilled by a line drive comebacker by Colorado's Brad Hawpe.

"Not to get melodramatic, but after '05, I was just battling to get out there every fifth day in '06," said Prior, who made only nine starts that year. "Then, '07 was a nightmare [exploratory surgery by Dr. James Andrews revealed structural damage to the shoulder]."

He could have packed it in -- he's earned nearly $13 million during his career, according to baseballreference.com -- but, well, a pitcher pitches. Until, at least, he no longer can. And despite his checkered injury history, Prior still wasn't ready for a life of "what could have been?".

His time on the mound last summer confirmed that in his mind.

And where he once pitched in All-Star Games and NL Championship Series' (2003), now he gauges his progress differently.

"I saw that, steadily, things were getting better and better," he said. "When I faced St. Louis' farm system in the playoff game, St. Louis always has great hitters and I held my own. I was thinking, 'Hey, I can do this.'"

This spring, he's still thinking the same thing.

"I think that my starting days are definitely on the back burner," he said. "From what I know of my shoulder, and from what they know of my shoulder, this is my best situation to come back."

Sunblock Day? Surely, you jest. More great weather this spring. Keep the Banana Boat well-stocked.

Likes: Mark Prior as healthy as we've seen him in several years. I don't know if his shoulder is going to last, but it would be a nice chapter in his career if he can stay on the field and pitch out of the Yankees' bullpen. ... Our Ear on Baseball podcast featuring C. Trent Rosecrans with two members of The Baseball Project, Scott McCaughey (most famous for his work with REM) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3). The Baseball Project has just released their second disc and will be touring, including a handful of Cactus League ballpark shows the latter half of March. Good stuff musically and good listening. You can get it here. ... Clarence Clemons, sax man for the E Street Band, playing on a new Lady Gaga song. What a combination they must have been on recording day. ... As far as fast food pizza goes, I'll take Papa John's.

Dislikes: That I left Tampa right before a special theatrical screening of Smokey and the Bandit at which Burt Reynolds was to appear. Now what a hoot that would have been. No word whether the Trans-Am was going to show.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"James Dean in that Mercury '49
"Junior Johnson runnin' through the woods of Caroline
"Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans-Am
"All gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Cadillac Ranch

Posted on: June 29, 2010 1:19 am

Prior to work out at USC for clubs Wednesday

Mark Prior hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006, but the former Cubs right-hander isn't yet ready to cash it in: His shoulder rehabilitation has reached a point where he's working out Wednesday at the University of Southern California in a showcase for major-league scouts.

Prior, a USC grad, hasn't appeared in a big league game since Aug. 10, 2006, when he went three innings and was the losing pitcher for the Cubs in Milwaukee.

Since then, he tried a couple of comebacks with the Cubs and then, most recently, he tried to return with his hometown San Diego Padres. That ended last Aug. 1 when the Padres released him.

Prior, 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA over five seasons (106 starts) with the Cubs, has undergone two shoulder surgeries since 2007. He was the second overall pick in the 2001 draft after Minnesota picked catcher Joe Mauer first overall, a choice that was fiercely debated for several years.

When Prior, along with Kerry Wood, helped pitch the Cubs to within one game of the 2003 World Series, many people thought the Twins had blown it.

Instead, Prior, whose later shoulder problems most people believe stemmed from a collision with then-Atlanta infielder Marcus Giles during a game in 2003, became a cautionary tale of a much-hyped draft prospect that failed to live up to expectations. He signed with the Cubs for $10.5 million out of USC, a record that stood until Stephen Strasburg surpassed it last August with his $15.1 million deal with Washington.

Several major-league clubs, including contenders, are expected to send scouts to watch Prior work out Wednesday in hope of perhaps gaining a pitcher that will help relieve pressure to trade for a starter in July.

Posted on: June 12, 2008 8:09 pm

Down the road with Wood and Prior

You missed what undoubtedly was one of the season's more touching conversations last week. So did I.

See, you and I weren't privy to it when Cubs closer Kerry Wood picked up the telephone and called his old rotation-mate, Mark Prior.

Prior, battling more pain, was forced to abort another comeback attempt -- this one with San Diego -- last week to undergo another surgery. This time, Prior had another tear in his shoulder. This makes it two season-ending surgeries in two years for Prior.

Ironically, the 27-year-old right-hander was undergoing surgery while the Cubs were in San Diego last week. Wood phoned him just before Prior went under the knife.

"He's had the same s--- before," Wood said. "Hopefully, he'll get through this. He's been through it before."

There's nobody else in the world who could talk with either of these two men as knowingly and honestly as they can talk with each other. Can't be. Nobody has lived through what Wood and Prior lived through in Chicago in the early 2000s, attempting to live up to those incredibly lofty (and, as it turned out, unreal) expectations, battling the injuries, never quite living up to what Cubs fans hoped.

Five outs from the 2003 World Series and it never would get any better than that. Prior started Games 2 and 6 against Florida in the '03 NL Championship Series; Wood started Games 3 and 7.

When the Cubs blew it, everybody braced for Prior and Wood to lead them to the promised land in '04 or, surely, by '05.

Never happened. There was soreness and pain and ice and the disabled list.

Now Wood's career as a starter is ostensibly finished, and he's thriving as the Cubs' closer.

Prior already seems washed up at 27. He's finished for this season, but vows to make another comeback attempt in 2009.

"He'll get through this, and hopefully he gets the chance to be healthy and pitch again," Wood said. "And if he doesn't, he's got a great family.

"He'll be OK."

Likes: David Ortiz becoming a U.S. citizen. How cool is it that Big Papi cares enough to do that? ... Tampa Bay. What an exciting, athletic, smart team. ... Kerry Wood's success as Cubs closer. He's been through so much, and he's so competitive, it's nice to see him finally healthy and having some success. ... The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. ... WGN running Nostalgia Night, or whatever it's called, and breaking out the WKRP in Cincinnati reruns. ... Correcting an old error by picking up a two-disc Dusty Springfield set. The error: Buying the Shelby Lynne disc of her interpreting some of Dusty's classics. No soul at all in that disc. Teaches me a lesson to just go for the original in the first place. Valuable lesson in a lot of areas.

Dislikes: Come on, give Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball from home run No. 600. The bickering is ridiculous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well she was blond and tall
"She was 23
"Brought into the world
"To get the best of me
"And she never paid back
"Half what she stole
"She wanted my money
"So I gave her my soul"

-- Mudcrutch, The Wrong Thing to Do

Posted on: June 12, 2008 8:06 pm
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