Mark Prior(notes) will get his redemption shot at the big leagues sooner than he expected. The right-handed former phenom was acquired by the Texas Rangers on Friday from the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League.
Prior, who will turn 30 on Tuesday, pitched for the Flyers for a month, striking out 22 of the 44 batters he faced in 11 innings. He did not allow an earned run and opponents batted .143 against him. Prior is in Hawaii with the Flyers and after signing a minor league contract will join the Rangers’ triple-A franchise in Oklahoma City.
“It’s a great day for Mark Prior, getting back into affiliated baseball,” said Paul Abbott, the Flyers’ manager and a former major league pitcher. “He came here to face competitive baseball and see if his arm would hold up, and he passed that initial test. Now he’s ready for the next step.”
Prior hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2006, when a series of shoulder problems and other injuries took such a toll that it appeared his career was over. He was 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA with the Chicago Cubs, who drafted him second overall in 2001 and signed him to a $10.5 million contract, at the time by far the largest ever for an American-born amateur.
He tried to make a comeback with the San Diego Padres in 2007 but quit after two years of rehab and zero mound appearances because his shoulder didn’t respond. After sitting out more than two full seasons, he made a comeback with the Flyers and has proven that his arm is sound. He pitched only in one-inning relief stints, touching 92 mph with his fastball and exhibiting a sharp breaking ball.
In an interview a week ago with Yahoo! Sports, Prior said, “Do you want to look back in five years and wish you gave it one more shot? Ultimately that was the decision. I’m young, I’m fortunate that I’m secure enough to where I can ride out a year and see what I can come up with. I want to play.”
Prior figured he’d finish the season with the Flyers and get a spring training invitation with a big league club in February. But his opportunity came early. The Rangers have all but clinched the American League West and are trying to shore up their bullpen for the playoffs. Because it is past Sept. 1, Prior could only be placed on the playoff roster if he replaces an injured player.