Prior, Padres Agree to 1-Year Deal

Thursday, December 27th 2007, 7:27 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Mark Prior has a chance to revive his once-promising career with his hometown San Diego Padres in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

The former ace agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract on Wednesday, making him the second postoperative pitcher to join the Padres in less than a month.

Prior's career has been sidetracked by various injuries. He missed the 2007 season with the Chicago Cubs after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder April 24. He last pitched in 2006, going 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA while being limited to nine starts because of shoulder pain.

Prior said it wouldn't be fair to either side to have an option year in the deal, ``knowing the uncertainties that lie ahead this year. That said, I'm confident I'm going to get back on my feet and re-establish myself as a competitive pitcher in this league.''

``I'm looking forward to this season,'' he added. ``I'm sure there are going to be some ups and downs, some bad starts and good starts, but I think this is going to be a great summer.''

The 27-year-old right-hander can earn another $4.5 million in performance bonuses, but it's unlikely he'll reach that total because he doesn't anticipate making his first start until mid-to-late May.

``I think it's a great day for the Padres and for Mark,'' manager Bud Black said. ``It strengthens an already strong pitching staff. Whenever he's able to take the mound, we feel we have an impact guy to step in and help our staff.''

If healthy, Prior would join a deep Padres rotation that includes NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, 347-game winner Greg Maddux and 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young (3.12 ERA). San Diego led the major leagues with a 3.70 ERA this season and came within one victory of its third consecutive playoff berth.

Earlier this month, the Padres agreed to a one-year deal with left-hander Randy Wolf, who is coming off shoulder surgery in September.

Prior finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2003, his first full season in the big leagues, when he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA.

That October, Prior nearly pitched the Cubs to their first World Series appearance since 1945. He took a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning against Florida in Game 6 of the NL championship series before the Marlins rallied for eight runs and an 8-3 victory at Wrigley Field.

Florida also won Game 7 in Chicago and went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

``Mark Prior is a competitor and is working hard to regain the form that made him one of the great young pitchers in the game,'' Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. ``We are confident he is going to help us in our rotation this season. It's exciting that Mark is coming home to San Diego to pitch for the Padres.''

Prior figures he still has much of his career ahead of him if he can avoid injuries.

``For unfortunate reasons, I just haven't been healthy since the 2005 season,'' he said. ``2006 was not a good year, when I had shoulder problems. I feel I've got things taken care of. I'm on a good rehab program. I feel I've got a lot of great years left.''

Prior graduated from University of San Diego High School and was the second pick in the June 2001 draft, out of Southern California. He is 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA in five big league seasons.

He became a free agent when the Cubs declined to offer him a 2008 contract before the Dec. 13 deadline.

Prior said he received a wide range of offers, narrowing his choices to San Diego and Houston.

``For obvious reasons, San Diego was the choice for me. I'm excited. There are so many things that are right about coming home and playing for San Diego,'' he said.