August 10, 2006:
The Cubs were visiting Milwaukee. Aramis Ramirez drove in Juan Pierre with a first-inning sacrifice fly to put the visitors in front, 1-0. The Brewers, however, scored four runs in the home first, then mounted a 6-1 lead by scoring twice more in the third, an inning that ended with Brewers pitcher Doug Davis grounding out.
Now it looks like the one-ball, no-strike pitch that Davis grounded to Cubs shortstop Neifi Perez is the last pitch Mark Prior will ever throw as a Chicago Cub. The Cubs chose not to make a contract offer to Prior before Wednesday's 11pm deadline, making a free agent of the 27-year-old Prior, who is currently rehabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder.
Bruce Miles, writing in Wednesday's Daily Herald before the Cubs officially excised their former golden boy, explained that Jim Hendry wanted Prior to agree to a one-year deal for less than the $3.575MM he was paid last season, plus a club option for 2009. Writes Miles:
The Cubs' viewpoint is that they rehabbed Prior in 2007 and will do so for part of 2008, and they want protection against him leaving as a free agent if he comes back and does well.
Prior's view is that it's not his fault he got hurt and he owes it to himself to test the market as a free agent after he has six full years in the big leagues.
We'll have to side with the Cubs on this one. Prior appeared in only nine games in 2006, when the shoulder began acting up. Since his 18-6 campaign in 2003, Prior worked in 21 games in 2004 (when elbow stiffness sidelined him) and 27 games in 2005.
Prior's career numbers as a Cub: 42 wins, 29 losses, a 3.51 ERA (ERA+ of 123) and 757 strikeouts over 657 IP. His best season was his only complete season in the majors, 2003, when he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and damn near pitched the Cubs into a World Series.Unlike his teammate Kerry Wood, whose 21-strikeout effort as a rookie will help distinguish his Cub career forever, Prior may ultimately be best remembered by Cub fans for his spectacular injuries: a shoulder injury resulting from a violent collision with Braves second baseman Marcus Giles that looked like it was straight out of Chicago Bear two-a-days; a fractured elbow which was the result of getting drilled by a Brad Hawpe line drive in 2005.
According to cubs.com, Prior's surgeon, the famous Dr. James Andrews, believes the righthander could be Major League-ready by middle or late May, though Prior's agent admits his client's return could be a month or two after that.
What there is no disputing is that if and when Prior pitches his next Major League game, it won't be for the Chicago Cubs.