Absolutely no one in Yankees camp knows what to expect from Mark Prior. The Yankees clearly believe he could help — Prior’s one of the pitchers getting some one-on-one time with Larry Rothschild in the mornings — but it’s been five years since he pitched in the big leagues, and it’s been six years since he pitched especially well in the big leagues. In between, he’s hardly pitched. Even Prior’s not sure what kind of pitcher he is at this point.
“Everybody wants to know,” Prior said. “They’re trying to compare what I am today to maybe what I was in 2005, when I was last throwing the way everybody probably remembers me throwing. I can’t do it. I can’t compare it. I’m not the same person.”
Prior estimated that he’s thrown a total of 12 or 13 official innings since the end of 2006, and only one of those innings came in minor league baseball. The rest came in independent ball. Prior has thrown some bullpens and done a lot of rehab work, but the last time he tore a capsule in his throwing shoulder — back when he was rehabbing with the Padres — the tear couldn’t be surgically repaired, so he’s been pitching through it.
“I haven’t thrown enough to make a determination and say, I’ve changed (in a certain way),” Prior said. “Right now my philosophy is pretty much the same as it’s always been: Locate the fastball and try to pitch off of it. What I don’t know is, what is ultimately my fastball? Is it 88 to 91 that it was last year, or is it going to be a little bit more? If it is 88 to 91, that’s not a big deal. It’s just, you have to execute your location that much better and just learn to kind of pitch off it.”
Prior said he was happy with his first bullpen with Larry Rothschild, and he was happy with the way yesterday’s batting practice went. In between, the bullpens have been “OK.” He feels like he’s been able to spot his fastball pretty well, and that’s the most important thing at this point.
“I definitely think the stuff is capable, and I definitely think it’s there,” he said. “Is it what it used to be? Probably not. It’s kind of like apples and oranges, but I definitely think it’s good enough to get guys out, absolutely.”
Associated Press photo of Prior