Spring Training can sometimes make for strange bedfellows, especially when it comes to veteran players still trying to cling to the remnants of their career. But no coupling may be any more unexpected than the recent news reported by the Cincinnati.com that Mark Prior has signed a minor league contract with the Reds. What makes it so strange you ask? Well, it means that Mark Prior and manager Dusty Baker, the man who is oft credited and derided for ruining Prior's once promising career. Making it stranger is that it was all Prior's idea:
"He called me and said asked for a chance,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I talked to Walt (Jocketty). (Prior) says he feels good. He feels like he has some unfinished business."
Baker is frequently criticized for ruining the phenom that was Prior by having him throw 233 inning in 2002 (including the playoffs) on 113 pitches per game even though he was just 22 years old and had never thrown more than 138 innings in a year, and that was during college. Prior was never the same after that one brutally abusive seasons and was out of the majors by 2006 thanks to severe shoulder problems. In other words, this is basically the baseball equivalent of Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown.
Alas, Prior doesn't seem like he has a lot of other options. He pitched 25 mildly effective innings as a reliever in the Boston system last season which sadly was his highest workload since 2006. One would hope that this appearance in Reds camp marks the beginning of a feel-good comeback story for a who many once thought would be a perennial Cy Young contender, but given that he is now 32, still unable to stay healthy and still not pitching very well, this will probably amount to nothing more than an ironic end to Prior's career as it will now come to an end before the very sunglasses-adorned eyes that are, perhaps unfairly, responsible for the career's early demise.