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by Phil Bencomo
Prior's velocity on his fastball reached 90 mph just once as he worked in the 95-degree heat. He typically throws in the mid-to-high 90s with ease, which means he definitely needs a couple more starts in the Minors.
The above statement could easily be describing Prior's start yesterday, a 59-pitch, four-inning outing that, byallaccounts, was much better than his previous appearances.
But more interesting, from the same article, is this tidbit:
"The only thing I can say, to me, what I'm throwing is what I'm throwing right now," he said. "I've always been a guy who takes time to kind of build up my velocity. I'm usually throwing harder later in the year. I was happy with the way the ball was coming out of my hand."
Yesterday, Prior was clocked at between 86-87 MPH, according to MSM reports, topping out at 89.
To which I must say: For all his enthusiasm ("I'm ready to go"), renewed confidence ("There was never any doubt" concerning his readiness for Opening Day) and swagger ("They weren't taking that many good swings off me"), he needs more time.
Last season, Prior didn't make his first start until nearly three weeks after his two-inning Peoria rehab start. With only 7.1 innings under his belt this spring, and his slowly-increasing velocity at much the same place it was after his initial '06 rehab start, Prior should expect to be ready in no fewer than two weeks, perhaps even three. Until he proves he can throw strikes, with all of his pitches, consistently from outing to outing with acceptable velocity, there should be no talk of returning by Opening Day.
The Cubs want an effective Prior each start, after all, not the BP pitcher we saw earlier this spring.