Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mark Prior's Injury

In my last post I was pushing hard for the Mariners to ink one or two rehab projects, one of them being Mark Prior. I know Prior is injured, but I was under the impression he'd be ready to go fairly early on in the season, maybe missing a month or so. I saw a post on Mariner Nation citing an AP article in the Kane County Chronicle as saying "Prior, still recovering from mid-April arthroscopic shoulder surgery, will likely miss some, if not all, of the 2008 season." It does indeed say that, but doesn't go into any details. This was the first I had heard that he could miss that much time, so I decided to investigate.

4/25 - An article from a day after the surgery suggests that Prior "could be back on the mound next Spring." Since the surgery had just occurred, there was no real timetable for his return.

8/26 - An article from Chicago's Daily Herald had Prior ahead of schedule with his recovery. Prior and the Cubs seemed optimistic, hoping to be ready for Opening Day.

11/13 - Mark Prior was activated by the Cubs from the 60-day disabled list. At this point Chicago was still trying to make a deal with him, so this could be a sign that he was making progress. If they knew he wasn't going to be ready til the latter part of the season they would have kept him on the 60-day, keeping a roster spot free. This is speculation, and you could make the case that the Cubs could put him back on the 60-day later on.

12/13 - Prior's doctor expected him to be ready for MLB action in mid-May. Josh Boggs, Prior's agent, added, "If you want to be conservative, tack a few months onto that." This is at the bottom of a Carrie Muskat report.

There wasn't a lot ot go on, but it's supposed to take about a year for Mark Prior to recover from this surgery. He's been throwing since September, so it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to see Prior on a mound before the regular season begins. My guess is that he'll rehab in extended Spring Training, followed by some time at rookie ball or low-A. After his arm is strong again it's just a matter of shaking off over a year's worth of rust in the minor leagues. There is no way to determine how long it would take Prior to get his control back, but I think it's safe to say that he'll be ready by June at the very latest.

If his rehab is going well I still don't think it would be a bad idea for the Mariners to gamble on him. He's been pitching with significant damage in his right shoulder since 2004, and we've only seen him healthy during one season (2003: 18 wins, 2.43 ERA). The extent of his shoulder damage was unknown before this surgery, and that's why he kept getting hurt. Prior's good mechanics saved him from having even worse damage, and could help him stay healthy from now on. The surgery could be a turning point in Prior's career, now that all the damage has been fixed and the scar tissue has been removed. The Mariners don't have many good options left, so I think he would be a nice gamble in that 4 or 5 spot, especially if Erik Bedard is acquired. The Mariners could even use the opportunity to dish out 8 or 9 starts to the likes of R.A. Dickey, Cha Seung Baek, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ryan Feierabend or Robert Rohrbaugh for big league experience.

Remember, Mark Prior wouldn't be signed to be this team's ace. He's no Johan Santana or Erik Bedard, but he could solidify the back end of the rotation, even if he's not at this best. I would love Seattle to be able to get Santana or Bedard, with Bartolo Colon as my next choice after that, but Mark Prior could be a nice one year bridge to a thicker free agent market next offseason. [MA-PRI]

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