The Cubs spotted the Mariners a 4-0 lead this afternoon in Arizona before storming back to win 6-5. Felix Pie had three hits, Kerry Wood (1 inning) and Ted Lilly (2 innings) held Seattle scoreless, and Mark Prior continued to scare everybody nearly to death.

Lou Piniella pulled Prior just one out into the second inning. Throwing mostly in the low- to mid-80s according to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune, Prior gave up four hits (three doubles), three earned runs and two walks; at least Clay Rapada now has some company in the Ridiculous ERA Club.

This morning's Tribune carried a story under the headline, "Sweet Lou turns sour on Cubs." Later Monday, Sullivan wrote a story about a team meeting called by Piniella before the team boarded its bus to Peoria to play the Mariners. The head in this case was "Cubs reality hits Piniella 'in the face.'" The jist of both pieces was the same: Piniella has already seen enough to concern him and he's not going to sit idly by while the team plays poorly, even if it is just Spring Training.

"You never know what to expect when you come in," (Piniella) said. "You come in as positive as you can (be), and rightfully so. Then reality starts hitting you in the face a little bit, and you have to adjust to it accordingly.

"But I'm very positive about our team. We're having some problems right now, but that's what spring training is for. But we've got some work, believe me."

Obviously, one and all hope that Prior and his inability to return to major league form aren't among the problems. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, writing before Monday's game, was even bold enough to imagine a world in which Prior was hale and hearty.

One odd bit of information to come out of Cubs’ camp was that the team may demote Rich Hill, who is probably their second-best starter, should both Mark Prior and Wade Miller be available to start later in the year. Set aside for the moment that Prior and Miller have been simultaneously healthy for about 20 minutes since 2004, making this something of a theoretical exercise. Who in their right minds would look at Wade Miller and Rich Hill and decide that they actually prefer Miller?

Hill abused Triple-A last year to the tune of a 6-to-1 K/BB and more than 12 strikeouts every nine innings. With the Cubs, he struck out 90 and walked 39 in 99 frames, with a high home run rate (one every six innings) in the bad news department. Miller hasn’t thrown more than 91 innings since ’04, and has 84 strikeouts and 65 walks in 112 2/3 innings the past two years. I don’t think he’s a terrible pitcher—if healthy, he deserves a chance to start for someone—he’s just not the pitcher that Hill is, and any starts given to him instead of Hill push the Cubs further away from October.

After today's effort, it's hard to imagine Mark Prior having a hand in pushing anyone into an Iowa Cubs uniform. (Miller, on the other hand, pitched respectably in his first spring start, Saturday against the A's.) The best hope for now is that Prior will wake up tomorrow with nothing beyond the usual, day-after soreness and be ready for his next start and that long, probably bumpy climb back to productivity.


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