Manager Dusty Baker, pitcher Mark Prior reunited on Reds
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Former Cubs right-hander Mark
Prior is making another pitch to return to the major leagues.
Prior, 32, has signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds, marking the fourth consecutive spring the oft-injured pitcher has tried a comeback.
Prior hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2006. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox’ Class AAA affiliate last season, making 19 relief appearances with a 3.96 ERA.
The move reunites Prior with Reds manager Dusty Baker. They were together with the Cubs several years ago, and Prior was an All-Star in 2003.
‘‘He called me in the winter,’’ Baker said Friday. ‘‘We talk sometimes. He sends my wife updates on the kids. He never asked me for anything. He said, ‘Hey, man, I’d like to try it one more time.’ I told him, ‘If I can help you, I’ll make the opportunity.’ ’’
Baker — who was blamed by some critics for overusing Prior, leading to his arm problems — got the OK from Reds general manager Walt Jocketty before Prior was brought to camp. Prior joined the Reds after passing a physical.
Prior was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 draft and was in the majors the next season at 21. Baker arrived in Chicago the next year, and 2003 was a big season for Prior and the Cubs. He went 18-6, and the Cubs came within one victory of reaching the World Series.
Prior was 6-4 in 2004 and 11-7 in 2005. In Baker’s last season with the Cubs in 2006, Prior reported to spring training with a sore right shoulder. Together, they sat in Baker’s office.
‘‘It was one of the sickest days I’ve had,’’ Baker said. ‘‘I was kind of told, which I will never do again, to cover it up or say he had another injury. It just postponed the criticism and ridicule.’’
Baker warned Prior that if he signed with the Reds, it would open up old wounds. The two would be reminded of those hurtful days.
‘‘My wounds are keloid,’’ Baker said. ‘‘Scars on top of scars. It doesn’t matter to me. It only matters what they [players] think. There isn’t a manager around that doesn’t have someone that was seriously hurt. The longer you’re around, the more chance you have to have someone that was really hurt.’’
Prior’s last game in the majors was Aug. 10, 2006, for the Cubs. He lasted only three innings and allowed six runs. He spent the next three years out of baseball.
In 2010, Prior pitched for Orange County in the independent Golden Baseball League. The Texas Rangers signed him, and he appeared in one game at
Prior pitched 11 games in the New York Yankees’ organization in 2011, then joined the Red Sox’ system last season.