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Big League Stew

Spring Headlines: Mark Prior reunites with Dusty Baker; Adam Jones wants to break Cal Ripken’s record

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Dusty Baker and Mark Prior in 2006. (AP)

Reunited and it probably feels just as strange as it does good. After nearly seven years apart, Mark Prior and manager Dusty Baker are back together after the now 32-year-old right-hander inked a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

Of course this is significant because in the opinion of many it was Baker’s (over)use of Prior during the 2003 season that precipitated the shoulder issues that limited his action during the 04-05 and ultimately drove him out of the game in 2006. Perhaps there’s something to that, especially if Prior was rushed back too soon after his violent collision with Marcus Giles on July 11 of that season, but we also know that not all arms are built to last in the major league environment.

[Also: Aging Roy Halladay a legend among peers]

We'll never truly know who was right or wrong. But we do know that they’re back together, and as Baker told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it’s now up to Prior to write his final chapter in baseball.

“He called me and said asked for a chance,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I talked to Walt (Jocketty). (Prior) says he feels good. He feels like he has some unfinished business.

“This gives him one more chance or a chance at closure.”

Crazier things have happened, but if it's not meant to be we do hope Prior finds that peace of mind.

Vladimir Guerrero seeks another chance: According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, 38-year-old Vladimir Guerrero is looking for one more opportunity to play in the big leagues.

Of course we haven’t seen Guerrero in a major league uniform since his 2011 stint with the Baltimore Orioles. That season, he would produce a very respectable .290 average in 145 games, adding 13 home runs and 30 doubles along the way. But he obviously wasn’t the same player, and as a result landed only a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays a month into the 2012 season.

That’s the best he’ll be able to hope for this spring, and he’ll have to show more patience if he truly hopes to make it back. He only lasted 12 games at Triple-A Las Vegas before requesting his release.

Jim Thome a wanted man in Minnesota: Speaking of veteran sluggers looking for work, it seems Jim Thome is drawing pretty strong interest from one of his former clubs, the Minnesota Twins, and their manager, Ron Gardenhire, is leading that charge according to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III reported there was a mutual interest between the two sides last week, and even quoted Gardenhire's desire for some thump off the pine. But the main issue right now seems to be that Thome is looking for a one-way ticket directly to the main roster. That's not likely to happen, but If he decides to back off that request we may see a good number of teams begin to show more interest.

[Also: Matt Kemp backs off of 50-50 talk this season]

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(USA Today)

Adam Jones wants to break Cal's record: Adam Jones is one confident man. He’s also an aggressive outfielder with a flair for the dramatic and a knack for making spectacular plays. It‘s fun to watch, but it could make the following quote a difficult one to back up.

From MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli:

“I’m going to break Cal [Ripken, Jr.'s] record,” Jones joked. “I’m going after Cal. Cal is in my sights. Sixteen more years. But that’s my goal. If I show up at the ballpark, I’d rather play than sit. I’d rather play than have a day off. That’s just my mentality.”

Of course the assumption is Jones made the comment tongue-in-cheek, but like manager Buck Showalter, we can’t be one-hundred percent sure.

"No, he won't play 162," Showalter said. "But don't hold me to it. I kept trying to get him out of there last year. ... You ask yourself about contractual obligations, I got asked a question, 'Can you trust him with this?' It was a short answer. It's fun to watch him turn into the guy he is."

That’s why Jones is one of our favorites.

Marlon Byrd set to fly away?: At 35, Marlon Byrd has come to a realization about his baseball career. If he’s not capable of breaking camp with the New York Mets, it’s probably the end of the road.

From The New York Post’s Mike Puma:

“I kind of look at it as a last chance,” Marlon Byrd said yesterday. “If I don’t make this team, I don’t see many other chances in baseball. That’s the way I’m playing, like it is my last chance.”

Given the youthful competition - Mike Baxter, Collin Cowgill, Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin - he’ll face in the Mets outfield, the odds would seem to work in his favor. Most teams would prefer a veteran presence in that mix while a younger player logs some extra at-bats in the minors. But there’s also the issue of injuries piling up, declining skills and that little suspension he served in 2012.

“Everyone forgets 2011 was kind of a wash: I got hit in the face and I missed six weeks and tried to come back and I was behind,” Byrd said. “Then, 2012 was a bad year altogether. I couldn’t hit, my fielding was so-so and then I had the suspension. I look at 2012 as a wash: My year wasn’t good and I took something I wasn’t supposed to.”

The only thing he’s looking to take this season is a roster spot. Otherwise, he’ll be taking his ball and going home after 11 years.

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