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Mark Prior

A photo of Mark Prior.

Mark William Prior (born September 7, 1980 in San Diego, California) is a Major League Baseball starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres organization. His career has been notably muddled with injuries after a promising start which had the sports media calling him a future superstar.

His repertoire of pitches includes a low to mid 90's fastball, a curveball, a slurve, and a changeup.

Prior graduated from University of San Diego High School. He was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the 1998 amateur draft, but they were unable to sign him to a contract.

College careerEdit

Prior attended USC, where he won the Dick Howser Trophy (he attended his father's alma mater, Vanderbilt University, for his freshman year), given annually to the national collegiate baseball player of the year. After becoming a professional baseball player, he continued his education on a part-time basis and received a business degree from USC Marshall School of Business in 2004. He was part of a pitching rotation that also boasted current Cleveland Indians pitcher Anthony Reyes.

Major league careerEdit

2001 draftEdit

In 2001, Prior re-entered the draft, and was considered by some to be the top prospect, but the Minnesota Twins, who had the top pick, were warned that Prior didn't want to play for them. Fearing a tough signability problem, the Twins opted to take local talent catcher Joe Mauer, leaving Prior[1] to be taken 2nd overall by the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had also been considering drafting Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets' third baseman Mark Teixeira, who went fifth to the Texas Rangers.

2003 seasonEdit

In 2003, Prior finished third in the National League's Cy Young Award voting after compiling an 18-6 win-loss record despite missing three starts after an on-field collision with Atlanta Braves second baseman Marcus Giles. Prior and Giles had both been chosen to play in the 2003 All-Star Game, but were forced to miss the game as a result of their injuries. Prior and fellow right-handed pitcher Kerry Wood were dubbed "Chicago Heat" by Sports Illustrated, and the name stuck, as the twosome were dominant in leading the Cubs to an 88-win season and a division title. However, sportswriters and fans began to criticize Dusty Baker on the high-pitch count of the two pitchers. Despite the concerns, Prior and Wood continued to pitch high counts throughout the season. In 2003, Prior averaged 113.4 pitches per starts in regular season. In the month of September, Prior recorded 126 pitches per starts. Prior averaged another 120 pitches games in the Postseason and struggled with an injury next season. Pundits often blame Baker for ruining the careers of both pitchers.[citation needed]

After Prior's stint on the disabled list came to an end, he compiled a 10-1 record, and pitched against former Cub Greg Maddux in the first round of the playoffs. The Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves in the first round, but lost to the eventual World Series Champion Florida Marlins in the NLCS in a tightly contested seven game battle. Prior, who was the winner in Game 2, was on the mound for the infamous Steve Bartman/Moisés Alou foul ball incident in Game 6. At the time, the Cubs were nursing a three-run lead in the 8th inning, and were only five outs away from breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat. Instead Mark lost command of all of his pitches and threw the lead away with help from some shoddy defensive work behind him, most noticeably the booted double play grounder and error by Alex Gonzalez.

The Marlins built off of the miscue by scoring eight runs in the next inning and 2/3, and also went on to win the deciding Game 7 of that NLCS and ultimately beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

2004 seasonEdit

Prior was forced to miss the first two months of the 2004 season due to an achilles tendon injury. There were published reports stating that Prior would need reconstructive Tommy John surgery on his elbow, but both Prior and the Cubs denied this, saying that his achilles tendon injury is the only reason he missed time in 2004. After coming off the disabled list Prior did not pitch up to expectations, leading to more speculation about the health of his arm. However, towards the end of the 2004 season, Prior seemed to return to form. He struck out a career high 16 Cincinnati Reds in his last start of the season.

2005 seasonEdit

Prior's 2005 season was again marred with numerous missed games due to injuries. After starting the season on DL again, he returned and pitched well in the early part of the season. However, on May 27, Prior was hit on his right (pitching) elbow by a 117-mph comeback line drive off the bat of Brad Hawpe, giving him a compression fracture. This sent him to another stint on the DL. Coincidentally, Hawpe, when playing for LSU in the 2000 College World Series, had hit a three-run home run off Prior that eliminated USC from contention that year. Prior finished the 2005 season with an 11-7 record in 27 starts.

2006 seasonEdit

During the 2005 off-season, after Nomar Garciaparra left the Cubs via free agency, Prior was mentioned as part of a possible deal for Baltimore Orioles's shortstop Miguel Tejada, but this trade did not come to pass. His bad luck would continue in Spring Training of 2006 when he was put on a slow throwing program. After feeling stiffness in his throwing shoulder, was diagnosed with a strained shoulder. He was placed on the 15 day disabled list, missing the first two months of the 2006 season. His 2006 debut came on June 18th, when he was shelled by the Detroit Tigers, giving up six runs in the first inning and lasted just 3.2 innings before being pulled. Prior was 0-4 in four starts with a 7.71 ERA, until he was once again put on the disabled list July 14, after straining his left oblique muscle while taking batting practice. He returned on July 21 to play against the Washington Nationals. He pitched 3.1 innings before he was pulled out of the game.

On August 14, Prior was again placed on the disabled list (tendinitis) for the remainder of the season. He finished 2006 with a 1-6 record and a 7.21 ERA.

2007 seasonEdit

In the offseason, the Cubs reported that Prior suffers from a "loose shoulder" which leads to injuries and means he has to do more conditioning work. Being eligible for arbitration, Prior then proceeded to ask for a pay raise from his 2006 salary of $3.65 million to $3.875 million for 2007. The Cubs avoided arbitration with Prior when he settled for a one year $3.575 million contract for 2007.[2]

After one start in the minors, in which he gave up three runs and got the win, Prior had Dr. James Andrews, a noted orthopedic surgeon[3] perform exploratory surgery on his right shoulder, which showed Prior to have structural damage. Prior missed the rest of the 2007 season after going through season-ending surgery.

For the first time in four years, the Cubs did not count on either Prior or Wood pitching a game, as waiting on the injury-plagued twosome had proven to be frustrating for the fans, teammates, and the coaching staff.[citation needed] Cubs GM Jim Hendry said that anything provided by Prior or Wood would be "gravy" and he hoped that this would come to fruition.[4] In June of 2007, Prior was called up to the big league club from Iowa, in order to place him on the 60-day DL and keep him active on the roster. This gave the team more flexibility at the AAA level so that they could keep RHP Angel Guzman in the minors. While Wood made his return to the club on August 5, Prior was non-tendered on December 12, 2007, ending his tenure with the Chicago Cubs.

2008 seasonEdit

On December 26, 2007, Prior agreed to a $1 million, one-year, incentive-laden contact with the San Diego Padres.[5] Prior had hoped to pitch again by May or June of the 2008 season, but a shoulder tear during his rehab at the end of May 2008 required surgery that forced him to miss his second consecutive season.

2009 seasonEdit

On January 13, 2009, Prior agreed to a one-year minor league contact with the San Diego Padres.[6] The minor league deal includes a $1 million option that will be lifted if Prior pitches in the major leagues in 2009. [7]

InjuriesEdit

Date Injury Time Inactive

September 2002

Strained hamstring while running the bases

Rest of season

Midseason 2003

Shoulder after on-field collision with former Atlanta Braves second baseman Marcus Giles.

3 Starts

Preseason 2004

Achilles tendon injury

2 months

Preseason 2005

Elbow strain

15 days

May 27, 2005

Throwing elbow - comeback line drive off the bat of Brad Hawpe

1 month

Preseason 2006

Strained shoulder

3 Months

July 14, 2006

Strained left oblique in batting practice

2 starts

August 14, 2006

Shoulder tendinitis

Rest of 2006 Season

Spring Training 2007

Shoulder surgery

Entire 2007 Season

March 26, 2008

Shoulder surgery recovery

First part of 2008 season (60 day DL)

May 16, 2008

A tear in the capsule of his pitching shoulder; shoulder surgery

Out for another six to eight weeks (60 day DL); out for the entire season

Pitching mechanicsEdit

Template:Sources Early in his career Prior's smooth, seemingly effortless delivery was widely regarded as mechanically efficient and sound. Prior's former personal pitching coach Tom House labeled the Cubs' right-hander's mechanics as "perfect." However, after Prior suffered a series of debilitating arm injuries, many experts have re-examined the quality of his delivery.

As easy and flowing as Prior's motion seems, he goes through some motions which some believe to be hazardous.

According to Chris O'Leary of The Pitching Mechanic, an online pitching mechanics blog, Prior's injury problems are largely derived from his arm action. More specifically, they are due to Prior's Inverted W arm action in which he lifts his elbows above and behind the level of his shoulders. According to O'Leary, this creates a timing problem that places an undue stress on the muscles and ligaments of the shoulder and elbow.[8]

According to Dick Mills, a former major league pitcher and coauther of The Science and Art of Baseball Pitching and Pitching.com, Prior's injuries were a result of both his pitching motion that he developed though repeated pitching drills and his scapula loading. Scapula loading is an arm action where a pitcher's shoulder blades are pinched back and the elbows are lifted above and behind the level of the shoulders.

Mark Prior's pitching mechanics, and the root cause of his problems, continue to be a topic of much debate among pitching mechanics experts.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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