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Prior makes first rehab start
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05/20/2004  9:36 PM ET
Prior makes first rehab start
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Mark Prior pitches for the Lansing Lugnuts on Thursday in Lansing, Mich. (Al Goldis/AP)
LANSING, Mich. -- It wasn't perfect, but Mark Prior was happy to get back on the mound in a real game and was generally pleased with his results.

"I felt pretty good, for the most part," the Cubs right-hander said after throwing 42 pitches in three scoreless and hitless innings in a Class A Midwest League game for the Lansing Lugnuts against the Fort Wayne Wizards on Thursday night. "There are some mechanical things that I have to work on."

It was his first rehabilitation start after going on the disabled list with an inflamed right Achilles that he suffered in Spring Training.

He threw 25 strikes and 17 balls as he walked one and struck out five Fort Wayne batters.

   Mark Prior  /   P
Born: 09/07/80
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"He was free and easy and looked like his old self again," said Oneri Fleita, the Cubs' director of player development/Latin American operations.

He said that various radar guns registered different speeds but that most of the scouts who regularly work games at Oldsmobile Park said Prior's fastball ranged from 91 to 94 mph, which is his usual velocity.

"I had command of, pretty much, my fastball," he said. "I finally got command of my curveball in the third inning."

Prior said he didn't throw any changeups, but felt fairly comfortable from the beginning. It showed as he opened the game with a called strike to leadoff man Brian Wahlbrink and then retired the right-handed batter on a pop fly down the right-field line.

Prior, in his third Major League season, then went to a 3-2 count on Peeter Ramos before striking him out swinging and also fanned Jordan Pickens swinging in five pitches.

Prior indicated that either June 5 or 10 is the target date for his 2004 Major League debut.

"It was a good step," he said. "We'll look at the tape tomorrow and evaluate it. ... Obviously the goal is to get back and pitch in the Major Leagues."

He took a couple of awkward steps as he completed his delivery a few times but said that was just something in his mechanics that he has to solve.

Prior was also the victim of a practical joke before the game as Lansing manager Julio Garcia wrote the name of Cubs catcher Paul Bako into the lineup. Prior was told that Bako was coming down from the team to catch the game. Prior burst into Garcia's office before being told it was a joke and that the Lugnuts' regular catcher, Jake Fox, would indeed be his batterymate.

Prior praised Fox's work.

"He did all the things that a Major League catcher does," he said.

Thursday night's attendance was listed at 9,823 in the ballpark, which holds 11,215. Prior said he enjoyed the atmosphere.

"It was fun. I had a good time and the fans supported me," he said.

That was only the second leg of a busy week for the 23-year-old, who graduated from USC and spoke at the commencement ceremonies Sunday.

Paul Harris is a contributing writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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