Former Chicago Cubs ace Mark Prior has heard the stories from players who gave up too soon and wished they had one final shot at returning to the major leagues.
He didn't want that to be his story.
On Tuesday, Prior, 29, pitched a scoreless inning in relief for the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League. Goodwin Field in Fullerton is a long way from the hallowed confines of Wrigley Field.
"It's not the problem of reinventing myself," Prior said Friday after practice. "I never got over the first hump."
In five seasons with the Cubs beginning in 2002, Prior won 42 games. In 2003 he went 18-6 and had a 2.43 earned-run average. He made the National League All-Star team and finished third in the Cy Young voting.
An Achilles' tendon injury caused the right-hander to miss the first two months of the 2004 season. By 2006, Prior, who once starred at USC, was dealing with shoulder problems. He had pitched 657 major league innings, 211 of them in 2003. Prior didn't pitch in the majors in 2007 after shoulder surgery and was cut loose by the Cubs that December.
Prior has been out of baseball since last summer, when the San Diego Padres released him from his minor league contract. He had already undergone two shoulder surgeries by that time -- most recently in January 2009 for a torn anterior capsule -- and was struggling.