Winter illness, not arm, slowed Prior

Winter illness, not arm issues, slowed Prior

MESA, Ariz. -- Mark Prior had yet to throw a bullpen session after three days in the Chicago Cubs camp, but the delay has nothing to do with his elbow, shoulder or any other part of his arm.

Prior is behind the other pitchers, workout-wise, because he was sick at the end of December and knocked out for about two weeks. How sick? He had to go to the emergency room at his local hospital.

"One morning, I woke up and I couldn't swallow or breathe very well, so that's why they rushed me to the [emergency room], and I had a CAT scan and stuff," Prior said Saturday.

"At this point, we're taking it slow," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We're trying to get him on a course and program to be ready for his start Opening Day. We don't know if he'll be second or third on the list, but we're trying to get him ready."

That doesn't mean Prior is starting on Opening Day, April 3, at Cincinnati. The Cubs simply want him ready to go by then.

"I knew he was sick but didn't know how sick," Baker said. "He told me he was 'emergency room sick.'"

Prior was sidelined with a respiratory infection that was unfortunately very popular in California this winter.

"I'm just behind," Prior said of his spring workouts. "I think this year we're going to have more of a structured throwing program. As of right now, April 3, I expect to be in Cincinnati."

He is doing all the other drills -- fielding, sliding, hitting. He can play catch. He just hasn't thrown off a mound. On Saturday, Carlos Zambrano, Jerome Williams, Ryan Dempster, Michael Wuertz, Roberto Novoa and Todd Wellemeyer were among the pitchers who did throw bullpen sessions.

"I'm throwing," Prior said. "I feel good throwing. I'm just behind right now. That's why I haven't been on the bump. There's no need to get on the bump right now."

Prior has appeared in only two Spring Training games over the last two years because of various aches and pains. He spent the first two months of the 2004 season sidelined with tendinitis in his right achilles. Last year, he had inflammation in his right elbow.

"I'm used to not going in Cactus League games," he said.

Prior was activated April 12 last year, but sidelined again in late May when he was hit on the elbow by a line drive. He made 27 starts, and went 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA.

"I'm not expecting something to creep up," he said. "I feel good about where I'm at right now. Would I have liked to be on the mound by now? Yeah. You deal with what you have in front of you and go from there."

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