Prior tosses two rehab innings

Prior tosses two rehab innings for Peoria

PEORIA, Ill. -- Mark Prior's heater never topped the temperature in his first Minor League rehabilitation start for the Class A Peoria Chiefs on Monday.

Prior threw 44 pitches in two innings of work on a 95-degree day in front of 5,865 at O'Brien Field in Peoria, Ill. Prior's fastball, which was around 88 mph most of the day, reached 90 mph on the last batter he faced.

Prior, who allowed three runs -- two earned -- on a home run and three singles, said that he doesn't worry about his velocity.

"It never really concerns me what I throw, really. Maddux is throwing 82 [mph] out there and he's still doing it," Prior said. "It takes time. I've always been a slow guy getting in shape as far as velocity. A lot of times during Spring Training, I'm down, and then I come around, so I'm not really worried about it."

"I thought it came out of his hand pretty good," Peoria catcher Mark Reed said. "He wasn't [reaching] the same velocity as what he wants to, I would say, but I know a couple of pitches felt real good coming out."

The key, according to Prior, is that he felt good throwing the ball.

"It feels better coming out. It feels a little bit crisper -- [it] doesn't feel as flat, and I think a lot of it is because I'm getting on top of the ball, and for me, that's more important than anything."

Prior said that he was only concerned with the runs he allowed because it contributed to an 8-2 loss for Peoria against Kane County.

"I gave up eight in Albuquerque last year and I came back out the next six starts and had about a 1.90 [ERA]," Prior said. "Early on, you're working on things. I was working on my fastball. I feel bad I gave up three runs because these guys are fighting for first place, but ... in these types of situations, you look at your execution more than what the outcome is."

Prior, who strained his shoulder in mid-March, said that the heat had its advantages and disadvantages.

"[My shoulder] got loose pretty quick out there. That wasn't a problem in this heat," Prior said. "[My shoulder] felt good. It felt relaxed out there, and [I] felt like I was starting to feel more normal than anything.

"I felt like I could've gone more. Obviously, it was a hot day and I wasn't ready for the humidity. I hadn't been pitching in any humidity, so that kind of saps you out, but that's fine. I've got to get used to pitching in that later in the summer. I felt like I could've gone another one, but they wanted me out at 45, and I just kind of do what I'm told."

Prior, who struck out three batters and walked none, said that location was his main focus on Monday.

"For the most part, I just wanted to throw strikes," Prior said. "I hadn't been throwing the ball where I wanted to down in Mesa, so my main priority was to throw strikes and get ahead of guys -- predominantly with a lot of fastballs."

Mission accomplished. Prior threw 28 strikes and 16 balls on the day.

"I think he was just trying to hit spots and work on rhythm," Peoria manager Jody Davis said. "It wasn't like when [Kerry Wood] came. Woody was ... two starts away from being in the big leagues, and Mark's probably two or three, at least."

Prior, who had been working down at the Cubs' extended Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., said earlier in the week that his breaking ball was coming along more slowly than his fastball.

"I felt a lot of improvement [in my breaking ball]," Prior said. "I've been working on my changeup a lot down in Arizona and not too much on my breaking ball. Just down in the desert, you never seem to get that bite or break in the ball. It kind of has a Colorado effect on it. Today, I was much happier with the ones that I threw, especially late. I was getting on top of those, too."

Reed said that Prior's best breaking ball was his last.

"The last guy he struck out, he had a real good slider," Reed said. "I thought he had decent stuff."

Prior was with the Cubs in Chicago this weekend, and he said that it's been difficult to be away from his team.

"It's been tough for myself having to watch. Not so much because they're losing, but because you're not there," Prior said. "I felt like I was on an island out there in Arizona. You're away from your team; you're away from your family, and it's tough. You want to be there to be supportive. Unfortunately for a pitcher, rehabbing is kind of different, because you have to go where there's people to work with."

Prior said that the Cubs will need to turn things around in steps.

"I think it was a positive to see [Wood] go out and throw as well as he did today. Obviously, we have to take it a day at a time," Prior said. "Our goal is to get back to .500 and then see where we're at."

Getting Prior back in the rotation will be crucial for the Cubs to move in that direction, but Prior said that he doesn't know when his next outing will be. He said he'll see how he feels over the next day or two and let his coaches decide from there.

And while Prior doesn't know when his next start will be, he does know what he will work on.

"I think I'll start doing a little more pitching," Prior said. "Throw some breaking balls, pitch backwards a little bit more. Usually, I pitch backwards and throw some breaking balls and changeups earlier in the count. I didn't do that today. I stuck with my fastballs early on in the count."

Ryan Crawford is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.