Cubs could see Prior return by June 3

Updated: May 11, 2004, 1:34 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Chicago Cubs: Right-hand pitcher Mark Prior threw 45 pitches Monday over three innings in his third simulated game in Mesa, Ariz., in the Cubs' spring training camp, according to the team's Web site.

The Cubs want Prior to be able to throw 90-100 pitches before they activate him.

If all goes well, he could be reinstated June 3.

"For the first time, I felt like if I was ready to go five, six innings, I could have gotten big league hitters out," said Prior, who won 18 games last season. "I was hitting some spots and had some good life on my pitches.

"I was much more relaxed and my arm is starting to come along. Today, I felt much better."

Sidelined all spring with an inflamed Achilles tendon and a sore pitching elbow, Prior is expected to join the Cubs in Los Angeles this week for a bullpen session with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

New York Yankees: Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras is scheduled to start for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday, his first appearance since being sent to the minors last week to work on mechanics.

Contreras had a light bullpen session Monday supervised by team vice president and pitching guru Billy Connors at the Yankees' spring training complex. The pair were to fly to Columbus following the workout.

The 32-year old Contreras has been working with Connors since Friday. He was optioned to Class-A Tampa last Wednesday, one day after allowing six earned runs and four hits in two-plus innings of New York's 10-8 win over Oakland.

Meanwhile, left-hander Felix Heredia, on the 15-day disabled list because of a bruised left index finger, could begin a rehabilitation assignment this week with Columbus.

Reliever Steve Karsay reported no problems after throwing 48 pitches Monday in his first bullpen session since experiencing tightness in his surgically repaired right shoulder last month. He had rotator cuff surgery a year ago and is expected to rejoin the Yankees this season.

Orlando Hernandez could resume throwing off flat ground later this week. He had a cortisone shot last week for bursitis in his right shoulder.

Philadelphia Phillies: Closer Billy Wagner is suffering from painful muscle spasms between his shoulder blades that prevented him from throwing and pitching this weekend in Arizona.

Wagner told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it hurt even to talk to his wife on the phone.

"I couldn't breathe or do anything," Wagner, who was unavailable in Sunday night's finale against the Diamondbacks, told the Inquirer. The Phillies hope he's available to pitch Tuesday in San Francisco.

Wagner said any spasms he's had in the past usually last a day, but added these are the worst.

Baltimore Orioles: Second baseman Jerry Hairston will be activated from the DL on Tuesday when the team starts a three-game series at the White Sox. According to The Baltimore Sun, manager Lee Mazzilli has tentative plans to bat Hairston ninth as the DH.

"Nothing is permanent," Mazzilli told The Sun, "but that's what I see right now."

Brian Roberts has exceled at second base in Hairston's absence, batting .315 with 11 doubles and an AL-leading 15 stolen bases.

Hairston finished his injury rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Bowie on Sunday. He fractured the knuckle on his right ring finger stealing a base in the first inning of the Orioles' first spring training game. Hairston played only 58 games last season.

Minnesota Twins: The team planned to activate injured catcher Matthew LeCroy when it returns home for a three-game series against Seattle beginning Tuesday.

Catcher Rob Bowen will return to Double-A New Britain when LeCroy, the Twins' Opening Day DH, is activated. LeCroy is expected to share catching duties with Henry Blanco and rarely be used as DH. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wants to avoid using LeCroy as DH with Blanco catching.

"I really hate to do that," Gardenhire was quoted as saying in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I know I may have to do it a couple times, but I don't like that."

Meanwhile, infielder Nick Punto is expected to go on the 15-day DL because of a strained right oblique muscle.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: The Devil Rays will be without Eduardo Perez for the rest of the year after he tore his Achilles tendon in Sunday's game, the Tampa Tribune reported.

Perez, 34, ruptured his left Achilles tendon while trying to stretch a double into a triple in the fifth inning of the Devil Rays' 8-4 loss to the Angels on Sunday.

Perez, the Rays' most experienced bench player, signed a two-year, $1.5 million contract this offseason.

Perez, who will likely need to undergo surgery for the injury, was to be evaluated by Devil Rays orthopedist Koko Eaton on Monday. His recovery, including surgery, a period of immobilization and rehabilitation, could take up to a year, according to the Tribune.

Cincinnati Reds: Pitcher Jimmy Haynes was put on waivers Monday by the Reds, who would be responsible for the rest of his $2.5 million salary if he doesn't get claimed.

The right-hander, who agreed to a $5 million, two-year deal in December 2002, is 0-3 with a 9.60 ERA in four starts and one relief appearance for Cincinnati this season. The Reds last week demoted him from the starting rotation to the bullpen.

The Reds first signed Haynes as a free agent in January 2002. He went 15-10 that year to lead the team in wins, starts (34), innings pitched (196 2-3) and strikeouts (126).

But in 2003, he started Cincinnati's season opener and lost 10-1 to Pittsburgh. He finished the season 2-12 with 94 1-3 innings pitched. He was on the disabled list twice and ended his season in early August because of a bulging disc in his lower back.

The Reds were off Monday. They plan to fill Haynes' roster spot before their game Tuesday night in San Diego.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.