"I think a lot of people wonder if I'm bitter," Prior says in a telephone interview from his native San Diego. "But I'm not. I'm blessed to have three healthy kids, a loving family and friends. When I was a rookie, did I have a vision of what my career would be? Absolutely. Has it gone that way? Absolutely not. But that's life.He seems to be doing everything in his power to get back, and for that I'll give him credit. Most people would have given up by now. That doesn't mean I think he's going to be an impact reliever on this team, but it would be great if things turn out that way.
"I think I've proved, at least to myself, that I've been able to overcome a lot. I'm looking forward to this next chapter in my career. I knew back then that I was getting to the big leagues, but there are no guarantees at this phase ... Now I'm hoping to turn the page and reclaim my baseball career."
Prior, who hasn't pitched in the majors since Aug. 10, 2006, will try to make the Yankees in spring training as, of all things, a reliever. Not so glamorous for a pitcher who was 18-6 for the Cubs in 2003 and finished third in the National League Cy Young voting, helping Chicago reach Game 6 of the NL Championship Series, but enough.
"The endurance of starting, I don't know if that's still in the cards for me," Prior says. "I'd have to find that out after being healthy for a year or two. I'm still learning (to pitch in relief), the nuances."
"It hasn't been easy. I'd be lying if I said there weren't times I said, 'Enough is enough.' In 2009, I thought long and hard about it. I had done everything I could for two years and it wasn't working. But I didn't want to be 35 and say, 'Man, if I had given myself extra time, I could've gotten healthy.' It's worth being patient now rather than having regrets."
[The Yankees] have followed his rehab for years, says Billy Eppler, the Yanks' director of pro personnel. Last summer, their scouts saw Prior's velocity and arm speed tick upward. "Small indicators," Eppler says, "but nonetheless indicators that he was getting better.
"He was getting up to 92 (miles per hour) and was averaging 90," Eppler adds. "With his pitching IQ, he's going to be able to get hitters out if he's able to throw at that velocity. He's got a chance to make the club."