Prior now 3-0, but Fox injured in Cubs' win

Prior now 3-0, but Fox injured in Cubs' win

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs won Monday night's game but they may have lost reliever Chad Fox for an extended period of time.

Fox, limited to 12 games last season because of elbow problems, walked off the mound in the ninth inning in obvious pain after throwing his 29th pitch of the inning. Fox had pitched on Sunday and picked up his first save nearly two years to the day from his last one.

The Cubs held on for a 10-6 win Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, but seeing Fox's contorted face was tough to watch.

"Your heart goes out to Chad," Mark Prior said. "He's a great guy, great teammate. All that he's been through with his arm and battling back -- and he's been throwing really well. For him to just be struck down again, it's tough. You don't want to see that ever happen to anybody.

"To see two guys -- him and Nomar [Garciaparra] -- in the last week or so in so much pain on the field -- you don't want to see anybody in that kind of pain," Prior said. "The game's hard enough as it is. When things creep up like that, it's frustrating and it's tough."

Fox started the ninth inning with a 10-3 lead. He walked the first two batters he faced, then served up a home run to Adam Dunn. Fox faced two more batters, and after throwing a 2-1 pitch to Jason LaRue, the right-hander walked off the mound, grimacing and raised his left arm over his head.

"It didn't look good," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

"It's been really tough for the team," Chicago's Neifi Perez said. "There are four guys on the disabled list now and we don't need that anymore. After he threw that pitch, I ran to the mound because something was wrong with his elbow."

Fox declined to talk after the game, and Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal said they were still evaluating the pitcher's elbow. Fox has had surgery at least twice on his elbow, and spent most of last season recovering from ulnar neuritis.

On a positive side, Prior struck out 10 over six innings and Perez smacked a three-run homer to lift the Cubs to victory.

It was Prior's 16th career double-digit strikeout game, and first this year. The right-hander gave up two runs on six hits and two walks. Prior (3-0) had not allowed an earned run in his two previous starts, but Austin Kearns changed that with a leadoff homer in the Reds' fourth off the first pitch.

"It's coming," Prior said. "I felt the best I've felt, as far as stamina and arm strength, that I've felt in my last three starts. I've still got some things to do and made a couple mistakes. It's coming around."

It was encouraging for the Cubs to get some positive news.

   Mark Prior  /   P
Born: 09/07/80
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"Mark's throwing the ball well," Baker said. "He had a lot more pitches early than he had in his previous starts and that's why we went and got him. He's throwing the ball great. It's tough to take -- we get one guy back and another guy leaves."

Fox was recently annointed the Cubs' closer, but that situation is unsettled again.

"I'll worry about that tomorrow," Baker said.

Perez connected on his third home run with one out in the eighth off Todd Coffey. Derrek Lee hit a two-run double in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

Cincinnati starter Paul Wilson (1-2) retired the first nine batters he faced before Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled to lead off the fourth. One out later, Lee walked, and one out later, it got interesting. Jeromy Burnitz singled, and second baseman Ryan Freel knocked the ball down, then dropped it. Hairston scored on the hit.

Michael Barrett then hit a single toward center which Freel also deflected, but Lee had enough time to score to put the Cubs ahead, 2-1. Barrett added an RBI double in the seventh.

The Reds kept the game interesting. Prior had to come up with some new pitches to keep them off balance. He faced Cincinnati just five days ago.

"They're a good-hitting ballclub," Prior said. "You think about the hitters they've got -- you've got [Ken] Griffey, who's obviously a Hall of Famer, hitting in the No. 2 hole. You've got [Sean] Casey, who hits .300 every year, and then Dunn. They're a very good team and a team that's tough to face back-to-back. You try to re-invent the wheel as far as pitch sequences."

But Prior was subdued in his postgame comments.

"I'm glad we're winning ballgames," Prior said. "Sorry if I sound a little down, but we're obviously thinking about Chad and what's happened."

So are the rest of the Cubs.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.