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February 23, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Prior Fights His Way Back

by John Perrotto

TAMPA—Before Stephen Strasburg, there was Mark Prior.

Prior burst onto the major-league scene with plenty of hype in 2002, one year after the Cubs made him the second overall pick in the draft from the University of Southern California. The excitement might not have matched the level that surrounded Strasburg's arrival with the Nationals last June but it was pretty close.

A year later, in his first full major-league season, Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. He finished third in the National League with 7.6 SNLVAR behind only Jason Schmidt (8.1) and Kevin Brown (7.7).

Much has changed since then, though. Prior is now 30 and hoping to resurrect his career as a relief pitcher with the Yankees. He has not pitched in the major leagues since 2006 because of a variety of arm injuries.

However, Prior says he only has excitement over getting a chance to be back in a major-league camp this spring rather than bitterness about having his career torpedoed by injuries.

"It bothered me for a while, it upset me and made me mad, but eventually those feelings went away," Prior said Wednesday as he sat at his locker in the corner of the Yankees' spring training clubhouse following a workout. "You come to realize that that's life. Everyone has problems in their life. There are a lot more people who are a lot worse off than I am."

Prior began reinventing himself as a reliever last year in the independent Golden Baseball League. The Rangers purchased his contract during the final days of the minor-league season and he pitched one scoreless inning for Triple-A Oklahoma.

Prior is a longshot to make the Yankees' Opening Day roster. He will likely begin the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and try to work his way to the Bronx.

"I'm not going to be a top-of-the-rotation starter who throws 200 innings anymore," Prior said. "My arm just isn't going to allow that to happen. I wouldn't rule out starting, maybe being a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in a rotation, but I think relief is probably where I fit best now. That's fine. I'm just happy to have the chance to be in someone's camp again and getting the opportunity to play."

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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