Prior signs independent league contract

Prior signs independent league contract

This time, Mark Prior will be trying to save his career.

Prior, a former first-round Draft pick who has had a career plagued with injuries, signed with the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League on Tuesday. Prior spent last season working back to health in San Diego's organization and is hoping to pitch his way into position for another chance at the Majors.

"I want to get back out there and get some competitive games under my belt," said Prior. "It's been a few years with a couple shoulder surgeries. I finally feel that I'm at a point now that I can go out, compete and get guys out, so that's the first step."

Prior, the second overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, shot through the Minor Leagues and attained star status virtually immediately upon his promotion to the Cubs. The right-hander finished third in the National League's Cy Young balloting in '03, thanks to an 18-9 record and a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts.

Unfortunately, that was the last time he pitched a complete season. Prior missed two months with an Achilles tendon injury in '04, and he missed time due to a compression fracture in his pitching elbow in '05. Prior missed another two months in '06 with a strained shoulder, and he hasn't been able to make it back to the Majors since.

Prior underwent shoulder surgery and missed the entire '07 season, and after signing with the Padres, he re-aggravated his shoulder condition toward the end of his rehabilitation period. Prior had a season-ending surgery again in '08, and he spent last season with the Padres on a Minor League contract.

Prior, who has a 42-29 career record with a 3.51 ERA, will be used as a setup man with Orange County. Before his series of injuries, Prior had started all 106 games that he pitched in during his big league career.

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