02/07/08 9:00 AM ET
Star pitchers looking to regain form
Several aces hope to rebound from injury-plagued '07
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Ryan: When Ryan went down in April, the Blue Jays' postseason chances essentially went with him. After saving 38 games and striking out 86 batters in 72 1/3 innings in 2006, the hard-throwing Ryan appeared in just five games in 2007 before going on the disabled list. He underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery on May 10, and the Jays are optimistic the 32-year-old will be ready for Opening Day."He threw his second bullpen recently. Until I'm told different, he'll be with us in Spring Training and ready to start the season," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "If we have to hold him back a month based on what we see, we'll do that." Wood: The one-time ace of the Cubs rotation made 22 appearances out of the bullpen last year and finished two games. The right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 24 1/3 innings, convincing manager Lou Piniella that Wood is ready to compete with Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol for the closer's job this spring. Wood is healthy and has the stuff and makeup to be a closer, the big question is will he be durable enough for the job. "The closer situation, I think that will take care of itself," Piniella said. "We'll let itself play out. We'll bring them all along the same way. Spring Training will tell us that." Prior: Prior hasn't thrown a pitch in a Major League game since 2006, when he was 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA in nine starts with the Cubs. Prior, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, underwent shoulder surgery last April. The right-hander signed a one-year contract with his hometown San Diego Padres as he tries to resurrect a career that has been derailed by injuries since he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA with the Cubs in 2003. "I'm 27, and guys are pitching into their 40s now," Prior said. "For unfortunate reasons, I haven't been healthy since 2005. But I feel that I have a lot of great years ahead of me." Prior won't be available to pitch at the start of the season, but he's expecting to be ready to pitch in a Major League game in mid to late May. "Mark Prior is a competitor and is working hard to regain the form that made him one of the great young pitchers in the game," GM Kevin Towers said. "We are confident he is going to help us in our rotation this season. It's exciting that Mark is coming home to San Diego to pitch for the Padres." A healthy Prior would be quite an addition to a rotation that already includes 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf. During his career, Prior has recorded 21 double-digit strikeout games and 65 outings in which he has issued two or fewer walks. He is averaging 10.37 strikeouts per nine innings over his career. "I'm really confident that I'm going to get back on my feet and reestablish myself as a competitor in this league," Prior said. "I know there are going to be some ups and downs. But I think this is going to be a great summer." Schmidt: Limited to a half-dozen starts last season before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, the 35-year-old right-hander has been rehabbing his shoulder in preparation for Spring Training. Schmidt, who signed a three-year, $47 million contract with the Dodgers last winter, was 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA before undergoing surgery June 20 to repair an inflamed bursa, a torn labrum and a frayed biceps tendon in his right shoulder. While reports from the club officials have indicated Schmidt's recovery is proceeding as planned, the pitcher hasn't spoken publicly about his rehab, which has caused skepticism in some quarters. The Dodgers have not publicly projected a timetable for his return. Carpenter, Mulder: Carpenter, who turns 33 in April, made just one start last season after going 51-18 during 2004-06. The two-time All-Star and 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner is expected to be out until at least the All-Star break following reconstructive elbow surgery. Mulder, 30, made just three starts last season and has pitched only 104 innings since 2005. He isn't expected back until May 1 at the earliest, and his most recent shoulder surgery means his effectiveness will be in question when he does return. Though they won't be around in April if these two stars do make it back later this summer, the Cardinals could enjoy a substantial second-half boost.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.