if this is how mark prior's spring starts are going to go, dear reader, it's understandable that he's had only two in four years.
the erstwhile cub starter was the subject of much concern last week when the cubs radiated some eerily familiar signals about his health. even though the team reversed its stance, the damage to confidence had been done -- the fact that the team was considering such precautions with prior was indicator of trouble, regardless of what they said. and now we have some confirmation as to what they were worried about.
prior never broke 85 on the gun as he was chased in the second inning of today's cactus league start, and never showed anything like the control it would take to pitch effectively with that velocity. having escaped the first in spite of a willie bloomquist leadoff double (by virtue of a sharp pagan-cedeno relay to third to kill a would-be triple) and two subsequent walks, prior yielded in the second with a single and two doubles, then recording a groundout before being lifted for nri ben howard. howard allowed the man on base to score, leaving prior with this ugly line: 1.1 ip, 4 h, 2 bb, 3 er, 0 k and a whole lot of shaking heads.
as was said here, the cubs' chances of standing clear of the national league central are intimately tied up with the fate of prior. this sorry outing -- uglier than its line score -- confirms much pessimism and puts much optimism in doubt. prior's second appearance (if he makes one, which is prima facie questionable considering how he threw today and the team's ostensible concern for his battered shoulder) will be under an even more powerful microscope than this one was.