Prior happy after simulated outing
By Bruce Miles Daily Herald Sports Writer
Posted Saturday, March 05, 2005
MESA, Ariz. - Simulated success was as good as the real thing for Mark Prior on Friday.

The Cubs right-hander threw 3 simulated innings before the Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 8-3.

He threw 55 pitches, according to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and will be on target to work in a Cactus League game next week.

"There were some spots here or there that I struggled with, but overall, I was happy with the way I threw the ball," Prior said.

Just as the Cubs did with veteran Greg Maddux, they started Prior with simulated action rather than a real game. Prior didn't pitch in a major-league game last year until June because of Achilles' tendon and elbow problems.

He says he's fine this spring.

"It's more of just 'controlled,'�" Prior said of the reasoning behind the simulated game. "It wasn't precautionary or anything. It's not a big deal. It wasn't a big deal to me. I didn't even think about it. I'd prefer to go out there and throw 3 innings in a controlled environment than try to go out (in a game) and try to throw 2.

"It's more about building arm strength and working on mechanics than anything else. You go out in a game and you can get 2 innings in and throw 15 pitches total, but at this stage of spring training, that's not what you're trying to accomplish. You're trying to build arm strength and get your pitch count up."

Fast action: Kerry Wood made such quick work of the Giants in his spring debut Friday that he didn't use all of his arsenal.

Wood pitched 2 scoreless innings, giving up 2 hits.

"It felt good," Wood said. "I was throwing strikes, and it felt good to get out there and get that first one out of the way. I didn't get a chance to throw a whole lot of pitches today. They were swinging the bats pretty early. I threw a bunch of fastballs and a couple of good changeups. I don't think I threw a slider today."

Wood was out from early May until early July last year because of a strained right triceps. He said he's feeling fine this spring.

"Before last year, I had almost 3� years without missing a start," he said. "I had a little setback last year. It's time to move on and make my starts."

Same look: Henry Blanco started at catcher Friday after Michael Barrett played in Thursday's Cactus League opener. Except for that, the Cubs went with the same position players in the starting lineup.

That included having third baseman Aramis Ramirez batting fourth, followed by first baseman Derrek Lee and right fielder Jeromy Burnitz.

Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was fine, as evidenced by a 2-run homer on the first pitch he saw from the Giants' Noah Lowry in Friday's game. Garciaparra got hit on the left wrist by a pitched ball Thursday.

"First pitch, pow," said manager Dusty Baker. "He blasted that ball pretty good. That's a great sign, especially this early in the spring."