It's no secret that Mark Prior has talent.
That's never been a problem for the one-time ace. It's been injuries that have plagued the Southern California native.
So, why would any team be interested in the former flamethrower?
If you're St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, you should. Not because the Cardinals lack starting pitching. Far from it.
St. Louis currently has one of the most solid starting rotations in the National League, headed by aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, and complimented by strong rookie pitcher Jaime Garcia and workhorse Jake Westbrook.
Instead, the Cardinals should attempt the most radical move of this season—making Mark Prior a relief pitcher.
When I first contemplated this idea, I thought I was crazy, as you probably do now. The Cardinals' biggest need is at third base, and Prior isn't going to help them there.
But the more I thought about it, the less crazy I seemed. At least to myself.
Didn't Kerry Wood also have an injury history? And what did the Cubs do? They moved him to the bullpen, and in 2008, Wood was an All-Star closer.
Could Mark Prior do the same? I think so.
If Prior is willing to accept the league minimum to pitch out of the 'pen for a playoff contender, I could see him returning to the major leagues. If he's willing to grow a beard, he could pitch out of the 'pen for the Cardinals.
Experts seem to agree that Prior's injuries stemmed from mechanical flaws, part of a delivery that resembles those of Kris Benson and Stephen Strasburg. With Dave Duncan, the best pitching coach around, kinks in pitching mechanics can be worked out.
After losing Jason Motte to the 15-day DL, the Cardinals are now relying on Mike MacDougal's fastball for strikeouts in big situations. When it comes to the big situations in the midst of a close race, or the playoffs, can you afford to trust MacDougal?
Prior is just signed on to pitch for the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball League, a long way from St. Louis. Will he be able to pitch in big situations? Who knows?
I'm not saying they should insert him into the closer's role. Sign him to a minor-league deal, and work him in to games slowly. If it works out, St. Louis has a good relief pitcher and Prior fulfills his dream of returning to the bigs. If not, no big deal, the Cardinals lose $40,000, and Prior heads home to SoCal.
In a recent workout at his alma-mater USC, a veteran major league scout said Prior was "just all right."
Call me crazy, but for a bullpen that currently boasts Fernando Salas, "just all right" could be just what they need.
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