Padres add Prior to pitching mix

Updated: December 26, 2007, 9:22 PM ET
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

Mark Prior, cut loose by the Cubs earlier this month, has agreed to terms with the San Diego Padres.

Prior Problems

In 2003, Mark Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, was selected to the All-Star Game and finished third in the Cy Young voting. He has won just 18 games in 57 starts since.

2003 Since*
W-L 18-6 18-17
ERA 2.43 4.27
Opp. BA .231 .241
Starts 30 57
*Did not pitch in 2007

Prior receives a one-year major league deal with a $1 million base salary. The contract, which doesn't include an option, contains incentive clauses that could take the total value of the deal to over $3 million. Prior, however, is not anticipating his season debut with the Padres until mid-to-late May.

"Mark Prior is a competitor and is working hard to regain the form that made him one of the great young pitchers in the game," general manager Kevin Towers told The Associated Press. "We are confident he is going to help us in our rotation this season. It's exciting that Mark is coming home to San Diego to pitch for the Padres."

Prior, 27, last pitched in the big leagues in 2006, and had shoulder surgery in April of 2007.

Prior figures he still has much of his career ahead of him if he can avoid injuries.

"For unfortunate reasons, I just haven't been healthy since the 2005 season," he said. "2006 was not a good year, when I had shoulder problems. I feel I've got things taken care of. I'm on a good rehab program. I feel I've got a lot of great years left."

The second overall pick in the 2001 draft, Prior went 18-6 for the Cubs in 2003 before experiencing a series of physical problems. He was born in San Diego and lives in San Diego County, and the Padres' hope is that he is able to join a rotation that already includes Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf.

"I think it's a great day for the Padres and for Mark," manager Bud Black said. "It strengthens an already strong pitching staff. Whenever he's able to take the mound, we feel we have an impact guy to step in and help our staff."

He has been throwing on flat ground, and to date, has been free of pain since his surgery.

Prior's lifetime record in the big leagues is 42-29, with a 3.51 ERA.

In 2003, Prior nearly pitched the Cubs to their first World Series appearance since 1945. He took a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning against Florida in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series before the Marlins rallied for eight runs and an 8-3 victory at Wrigley Field.

Florida also won Game 7 in Chicago and went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine