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Prior ready to go for Friday start
06/02/2004  1:51 PM ET
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior tested the Wrigley Field mound Wednesday, throwing about 30 pitches in his tuneup for his first start of the season on Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Obviously, I'm excited," Prior said after the session. "I always want to be out there and I want to compete. You know, it's no different than it was last year. I've got to come out and do my job and do it one inning at a time and one game at a time. I'm not here to do anything special. I'm here to do what I have to do, and that's pitch innings and pitch ballgames."

Prior has been slowed by an inflamed right Achilles that flared up in Spring Training. He has made three minor league starts, and struck out 10 at Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. He has maintained a level head during his intensely scrutinized rehab. And it'll be nice on Friday to just think about getting ready for the game.

"It's a matter of doing the same routine I always do," Prior said. "You know I went out there today just to kind of get my eyesights and get my visuals back. And it's the same as it always is. You just go out of the gate and take it one pitch at a time."

The right-hander, who was 18-6 last year with the Cubs, can't wait to focus on games and not aches and pains.

"I didn't think I'd go through my entire career without having to deal with something," Prior said. "Like I said, I'm just going to go out and compete and help this team try to win a ballgame. My job is just to go out and give everything I have."

   Mark Prior  /   P
Born: 09/07/80
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

He didn't rush his rehab.

"I think early in Spring Training we pushed it a little bit but after that we mapped out a plan and we knew what it was all along," he said. "Not having any setbacks made it a lot easier. We just stuck to the plan and went from there."

Neither Prior nor Cubs manager Dusty Baker will reveal whether the right-hander is on a limited pitch count. Baker is worried the Pirates will take pitches and try to work up the count against Prior.

Coincidentally, Prior made his first big league start against the Pirates on May 22, 2002, and struck out 10 over six innings in a 7-4 Chicago victory. He's 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA in his career against Pittsburgh.

"I've been through a lot in my first two years and I'm sure I'll experience some new things over my career," Prior said. "But as far as I'm concerned this will probably be -- unless something strange happens -- just like pitching again."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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