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Prior will be sent to extended spring training

PITTSBURGH -- Mark Prior threw nearly 50 pitches off a mound Wednesday and expects to start throwing to batters at the Chicago Cubs' extended spring training camp next week.

Recovering from right Achilles tendinitis and a sore elbow,
Prior has thrown about 85 pitches since Monday, including some
curveballs off a flat surface Wednesday. He threw only 10 pitches
in his first session last week.

Prior plans to throw some breaking balls off the mound during
his next throwing session in a few days.

"It went all right," Prior said Wednesday. "I'm not as
accurate as I'd like to be and I'm not hitting my spots, but I
think it will come. It was only my third bullpen session
(Wednesday). I'm not necessarily worried."

Prior, 23, was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA last season in helping the
Cubs reach the NL championship series. He finished third in Cy
Young Award voting.

The right-hander will continue his bullpen sessions until
heading to camp in Mesa, Ariz., next week. The Cubs aren't setting
a definitive timetable for Prior's return, but mid-May has been
mentioned.

Prior probably will go on a minor league rehabilitation
assignment in early May.

"The end of next week, hopefully I'm throwing an inning or
something, pitching to batters," he said. "I'm starting out
slowly and working myself up, the way I would during spring
training."

The Cubs are being cautious as they try to prevent a relapse
that might further delay Prior's return. Last month, Prior said
tests showed nothing but inflammation in the heel and right elbow.

Prior is encouraged that he now feels normal on the days after
he throws.

"Even right now, I feel good," he said. "The first few times
out, everything was aching, but now I'm starting to feel like I
normally do when I throw my side (sessions)."

Prior also denied he has been in a bad mood while he waits to
pitch again, saying the only problem has been the monotony.

"I've been positive for the most part," he said. "People say
I've been moody, but when you get the same questions for 60
straight days, it gets old every once in a while."