NEW YORK -- The Yankees signed Mark Prior to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, the club announced Wednesday. Prior will be trying to crack the Major League roster as a reliever.
If he makes the club and the Yankees bring back 2010 setup man Kerry Wood, then the one-time dynamic starting pitching duo would be reunited in the Bronx -- though they of course won't have the same impact they once had for the Cubs. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was Prior's teammate during the right-hander's rookie year in 2002.
Prior hasn't pitched in the Majors since '06 and has logged just one Minor League inning since then (in September), but he was an up-and-coming star in 2003, when he finished the regular season 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and, with Wood, helped lead the Cubs to the National League Championship Series.
The Yankees and Rangers weren't just competing this offseason for the services of Cliff Lee -- who eventually pulled a shocker by agreeing to terms with the Phillies late Monday night -- they were also both going after Prior, who pitched late last season out of Texas' farm system.
Prior, still only 30, began a comeback from a career plagued by shoulder injuries by signing with the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden League in August. Then, after giving up just one unearned run in 11 innings -- striking out 22 and walking five -- he was signed in September by Texas to pitch for the organization's Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate. There, he pitched one shutout inning of relief.
"He's feeling good," said Boggs, adding that his client essentially spent 2007-09 rehabbing. "He had a long journey back, was working really hard. I think he's probably very pleased to have an opportunity, as he was closing out last season with Texas. The situation presented itself with the Yankees, he felt good about it and we pulled the trigger. Hopefully he gets a shot to compete in camp and see where that takes him. He's healthy, healthier than he has been, and he worked very hard at it."
In addition to Prior, the Yankees announced the signing of six other players to Minor League contracts with Spring Training invites: right-handed pitchers Brian Anderson and Buddy Carlyle, left-handers Neal Cotts and Andy Sisco, catcher Gustavo Molina and infielder Doug Bernier.
The 30-year-old Cotts missed the entire 2010 season while recovering from July 2009 Tommy John surgery. In his seven-year Major League career, he is 10-12 with a 4.63 ERA, a 1.467 WHIP and has limited opposing left-handed batters to a .253 batting average (.248 versus right-handers).
Anderson, 28, spent his first five seasons in the big leagues as an outfielder and saw his first action as a pitcher in 2010, combining to make 14 appearances (four starts) at the rookie-level, Class A and Triple-A affiliates of the Royals, posting a 2.08 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. Carlyle, 33, pitched six seasons in the big leagues before spending the 2010 season pitching for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League, going 0-3 with a 4.88 ERA in seven appearances (27 2/3 innings).
The 28-year-old Molina, who has played in 23 Major League games since 2007, hit .241 with eight homers in 35 games for the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate last year. Sisco, a 27-year-old who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2007, made 48-relief appearances in the Giants' Double-A affiliate, going 4-4 with a 4.32 ERA in 2010.
Bernier, 30, spent the 2009 season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will attend his second Yankees Spring Training. With the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2010, he batted .240 with 15 RBIs in 69 games.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.