Prior, Burke agree with Padres

Updated: January 13, 2009, 9:24 PM ET
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

The San Diego Padres have agreed to terms with pitcher Mark Prior and second baseman Chris Burke on minor league deals and have invited each to spring training.

If Prior pitches in the major leagues, he'll earn $1 million, and Burke -- who will go into spring training with a strong chance of winning the Padres' everyday job at second -- will earn $650,000.

Prior has not pitched in the major leagues since 2006 with the Chicago Cubs and only threw 43 2/3 innings that year due to a variety of injuries. He was sidelined for all of 2007 after having shoulder surgery.

The Padres signed him that offseason but he again suffered a shoulder injury and had season-ending surgery before throwing a pitch in the big leagues.

Padres general manager Kevin Towers said Prior threw off a mound on Friday for the first time since surgery, and the report from team trainer Todd Hutcheson was good.

"The last surgery benefited him a great deal," Towers said. "It looks like his mechanics are back in line again and he has good carries on his throws when he's doing long tosses.

"He's had quite a few surgeries, and we're hoping this one certainly fixed any issues he had," Towers said. "I hate to put any timelines on it, but we hope he's pitching competitively at the start of the season. If it's not in the big leagues, then maybe a few starts in the minor leagues."

Prior was once thought to be the Cubs' ace of the future. In 2003, he finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting, was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and struck out 245 in 211 1/3 innings.

That October, he was on the mound for Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against Florida with the Cubs leading the series 3-2. Chicago led by three runs in the eighth inning before the Marlins, perhaps helped by fan Steve Bartman's play on a foul ball at Wrigley Field, rallied to win. Florida won Game 7, then went on to win the World Series.

Prior has won just 18 games since then.

He grew up in San Diego and was the second pick overall in the 2001 amateur draft.

Burke spent last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks after playing the first four years of his career with the Houston Astros. He is a career .241 hitter with 22 homers and 106 RBIs.

Buster Olney covers baseball for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine