Prior tunes up, could start Sunday

Prior tunes up, could start Sunday

MILWAUKEE -- Mark Prior threw 77 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday in what will likely be his final test before the Chicago Cubs pitcher is activated from the disabled list.

If there are no setbacks, Prior could start on Sunday against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

"I'll see how he is first," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Tuesday when asked if Prior will start.

"We'll see how I feel [Wednesday]," Prior said. "I felt I threw the ball for the most part pretty well today. It was good. It was a positive workout."

"The main thing," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said, "is he feels good and he looked pretty sharp."

He has been sidelined since being hit by a line drive off his right elbow on May 27, suffering a compressed fracture. Any discomfort Prior has now is minor.

"It's been going away," he said. "It's like any bruise. It takes time. We haven't had any setbacks, and I think that's been the big key."

Jose Macias and Jason Dubois, the designated hitters in the simulated game, did their part. Macias bunted a couple times so Prior could work on his fielding. And the pitcher even fielded a couple comebackers, including one that came close to his head. He's not gun shy.

"I've been pitching since I was 8, 9 years old, and it's not life-threatening, but it's dangerous how close you are," he said. "It's dangerous to be a hitter. The ball's not soft. I'm not going to think twice about it. I enjoy the game too much to give it up because I've been hit one time."

"You come to the realization," Rothschild said, "that it's part of the job."

Yet Prior has dealt with some mood swings since Colorado's Brad Hawpe's line drive struck his right elbow. After seeing him writhing on the ground in pain, it's tough to imagine Prior could be activated before Kerry Wood is. Wood made his last start April 30, and has been out with a strained right shoulder.

"Through this whole process, I've really been taking it day by day because I didn't know what to think," Prior said. "From going to being on the ground, thinking possibly career- to season-ending injury, to coming back and being back throwing, even in this situation, less than a month later, obviously I'm very pleased."

On Tuesday, he threw all his pitches. His arm strength is fine, Rothschild said.

"I pitched like it was a real game," Prior said.

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

Is there any reason to throw another simulated game?

"I don't think so," Prior said, "but they'll make that determination and they'll evaluate it, obviously with my input. I think the main thing was that I can go out there and not put the team in a deficit if I can only go four or five [innings]."

Prior threw 60 pitches last Friday at Yankee Stadium in his first simulated game, and because he responded so well, his next outing was moved up to Tuesday. The Cubs have Monday off, and if Prior had waited five days to throw on Wednesday, he would've had to wait another week before being able to get in a game. The Cubs don't want to throw the entire rotation off and need to keep Carlos Zambrano on schedule.

"I didn't see any reason to go down and throw in a rehab start and put the Iowa team in a situation," Prior said. "Those guys down there get bumped around. The intensity will be about the same as down there. Here, I feel a little more comfortable and I can work with Larry. I didn't see the need to go down there."

If Prior does start Sunday, he won't be babied.

"I'm going to go out there and I'm going to compete," he said. "I've pitched in big games before and against the White Sox. I'm just going to go out there and it'll be a grind and they'll grind on me, and we'll see what happens."

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