As new health concerns have arisen about the oft-injured Cubs P Mark Prior, the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan suspects the club has been less than forthcoming.
(Prior, in his traditional pose, last summer)
The Cubs repeatedly have said Prior was not hurt up until Tuesday morning, when general manager Jim Hendry was asked if too much was being made of Prior’s delay in starting a Cactus League game.
“We’d all like to see him pitch in the games,” Hendry replied. “I’m comfortable with [pitching coach Larry Rothschild’s] assessment that if he gets three starts down here he should be able to go that first week, and at the same time there’s this perception that he was hurt all the time last year.
“The reality is he had 27 starts, including a near-tragic line drive that set him back for a while. That could have been a career-ending type of injury. Even with all that, he still started 27 games. But if you asked the average person, they would think he missed half the year. ¦ There’s nobody on earth who wouldn’t have missed some starts after the line drive.”
A few hours later Hendry was addressing reporters about the decision to send Prior to see Yocum, a renowned orthopedic specialist. What would be the motivation for the Cubs to hide knowledge of Prior’s injury in the morning, suggesting he would be ready for his first start, only to backtrack later on and announce the shoulder soreness? The last thing Hendry and manager Dusty Baker need is another distraction at the start of a season that’s supposed to erase the memory of last year’s mess.
Prior’s recent throwing sessions and his simulated game all took place behind closed doors, unlike most of his simulated games in Mesa last spring. Asked a day later about his first simulated game, Prior answered three questions before clubhouse regulations brought the interview to an end.
The Cubs declined to ask Prior to resume the dialogue with reporters later, leaving Baker and Rothschild to provide any and all information about him. Baker often deferred to Rothschild, who said Prior was progressing well and remained on track to make his scheduled start April 5 in Cincinnati. As late as Sunday, after the simulated game, Baker said Prior’s health was not an issue.
“Nothing’s wrong with him,” he said. “Nothing hurts. Nothing. Nothing. It’s just a matter of him getting on that mound.”