A Shortened Preview?

Spring Training Game Twenty-Three – Cubs 0 Padres 1 – 5 innings
WP – Greg Maddux (1-0) LP – Mark Prior (0-2)

The fourth and final meeting of the exhibition season between the Cubs and Padres ended after the 5th inning when rain blew through Arizona. Greg Maddux held the Cubs offense to just 3 hits….a double by Derrek Lee and singles by Ryan Theriot and Mark Prior. Maddux was masterful against his former team.

All eyes were on Mark Prior when he took the hill with many wondering how long he would actually last and would he show any improvement from his previous spring outings. The first inning was more of the same, low velocity and bad location but the other 3 innings he pitched were reminiscent of the Mark Prior that has not been seen in Chicago for quite some time.

Mark Prior retired the Giles’ brothers to start the game and despite throwing from behind in the count he was still effective in recording outs. His fastball was clocking in the low to mid 80’s and he was having trouble throwing any breaking balls for strikes. After falling behind Adrian Gonzalez (3-1) he gave up a single to left….the first of 4 consecutive singles with 2 outs. Josh Bard followed with a single into right center past a diving Ryan Theriot. Mike Cameron then singled to left to score the only run of the game….the gun only registered 77 MPH. Khalil Greene then singled to left past a diving Izturis. Matt Murton made a strong, accurate throw to the plate, Bard tried to slide around Barrett’s tag, missed the plate and he was tagged out to end the inning.

Kevin Kouzmanoff led off the 2nd inning and Prior struck him out swinging on three pitches. Prior was throwing harder and his location was much improved. Derrek Lee made a very good play on a grounder off the bat of Terrmel Sledge for the second out of the inning. If not for a throwing error by Aramis Ramirez, Prior would have had a 1-2-3 inning. Greg Maddux reached on the error but Prior was able to retire Marcus Giles on a tapper back to the mound. Prior hit 91 MPH on the gun in the 2nd inning….easily his best inning of the spring.

Brian Giles led off the 3rd inning and flew out to Jacque Jones on Prior’s first offering. He walked Gonzalez on 4 pitches but did hit 90 a couple of times during the at bat….he missed high and outside. Mike Cameron fell behind in the count 1-2 thanks to a tremendous curve ball from Prior that registered 82 MPH on the gun. Prior did end up losing him and walking his second batter of the inning. Prior did strikeout Greene swinging to end the inning. His fastball registered at 92 and 93 MPH during the 3rd inning.

The 4th and final inning of the day for Prior was very uneventful, just a “boring 1-2-3 inning.” He retired Kouzmanoff on a fly out to left, Sledge on a fly out to center and Maddux looked at a very good curve ball to end the inning. His line on the day….1 run on 4 hits, 3 strikeouts and 2 walks in 4 innings.

While it is not known and cannot be predicted if Mark Prior will ever be the pitcher he once was or most thought he was destined to be, his outing on Thursday in Peoria was a good step in the right direction.

Rich Hill was scheduled to finish the game but was able to get in just an inning of work. He was sharp and gave up just 1 hit and struck out 2 before the rain ended the game.

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs host the Giants on Friday with Carlos Zambrano scheduled to make the start against Noah Lowry. Kerry Wood was scheduled to throw in Thursday’s game against the Padres but was pushed back to Friday against the Giants….his first game action since March 11th. This is the first of a home/away series against the Giants….the Cubs play in Scottsdale on Saturday.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne