Spring Training Beginning Again for Prior

Spring training is beginning again for Mark Prior. The Cubs 23-year-old star pitcher, who is recovering from an inflamed right Achilles tendon and an inflamed right elbow, faced hitters for the first time since the National League Championship Series last October when he threw a 15-pitch simulated inning against Cubs minor leaguers on Saturday (May 1) at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz.

If he continues to pitch without pain, Prior could be back on the hill for the Cubs in the next four or six weeks. But Prior, who won 18 games last year, isn't looking too far ahead.

After his 15-pitch session -- in which he mixed in five breaking pitches with 10 fastballs -- he wasn't ready to declare himself ready to face Houston or St. Louis just yet.

"It's a slow process," Prior told an Arizona reporter after the session. "It's comparable to spring training, so I think it went all right.

"Stamina-wise, I felt pretty good. Mechanically, I had some things that were off. But the strength in my legs and arm felt pretty good."

Prior will continue to take bullpen sessions and build up his pitch count in simulated games this week, and might rejoin the parent club and continue his rehab work when the team opens a West Coast trip on May 11.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have not collapsed during his absence. They finished with a 13-9 record in April and were tied with Houston for first place in the National League Central.

It was just the seventh time since 1969 the Cubs posted a winning April. If they continue to do well in May, they should receive a huge boost if Prior comes back in June and returns to form.

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