PHOENIX -- In his first public comments since shoulder surgery in April, pitcher Mark Prior said his goal is to be ready for Opening Day 2008.

"I hope so," said the right-hander. "They said a year from surgery, and that's April. Hopefully, I'll be on some sort of throwing program [in Spring Training] that leads me to Opening Day."

Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery on Prior's troublesome shoulder on April 24.

"The labrum was torn pretty signifcantly. There was wear and tear on the [rotator] cuff, and a tear in the capsule," said Prior. "The damage was more than anyone expected. The MRIs weren't as telling as seeing it with eyes. Looking back, we found out that surgery was kind of inevitable."

Prior, who last saw Andrews about a month and a half ago, will see him again in a couple of weeks. The recovery program dictates that Prior can start thinking about throwing about six months after the surgery.

"Right now, it's just strengthening, and getting it back to where you want it to be before you start throwing," said Prior. "Light dumbbell work, stabilization. I guess they call it phase two. I feel great. Every checkpoint I've been either at or ahead of schedule."

One thing Prior expressed was something that had been in short supply in recent seasons: Optimism.

"I'm excited about throwing with no pain," said Prior. "I know coming back and rehabbing there's going to be struggles, but certain things I can already tell feel a lot better."

Prior spent this past spring trying to regain arm strength in an attempt to pitch this season and didn't really have a lot of pain.

"Some discomfort started showing up near the end [of Spring Training]," said Prior. "Ironically, I felt pretty good, but [my stuff] just wasn't there. You deny it and try to get through it, but knowing what I know now, surgery was the right decision."

Prior was pitching in an extended Spring Training game on April 12 when he left the mound with shoulder pain.

On the mend: Alfonso Soriano was upbeat, jovial and joking around in the clubhouse before Saturday's game against Arizona. Perhaps it's because he's very close to returning from his right quad strain, maybe as soon as Tuesday's game against the Brewers, which is ahead of schedule.

"We haven't changed," said manager Lou Piniella. "Milwaukee's possible. We'll see how he feels on Tuesday. We're really pushing him this weekend. I wouldn't rule it out. Basically, he looks good. It wouldn't surprise me to see him in the lineup on Tuesday."

Filling in: Since Soriano went down on Aug. 5, Ryan Theriot has hit .324 (24-for-74) in assuming the leadoff spot, including eight multi-hit contests. Theriot was hitting .289 for the season entering Saturday's contest.

"For me, there really hasn't been much of a difference batting leadoff from batting second [where he was before Soriano was injured]," Theriot said. "Obviously, you love to hit in front of Soriano and behind Derrek Lee. That's the best spot in the league, but I don't change my approach moving from the two hole to leadoff."

Pushing Wood: Piniella is starting to see some positive signs of even more progress from Kerry Wood in his return from shoulder surgery, now that the right-hander has pitched seven games at the big league level this season.

"He's starting to get his breaking ball over," said Piniella. "That will give him that second pitch. His fastball has been consistently 93-94 mph. We haven't pushed him much. The test will be using him on back-to-back days or two innings at a time."

Did you know? Since June 3, the Cubs have the best record in the National League with a 44-30 mark. ... The Cubs are 16-3-2 in a series when winning the first game of the set. ... Friday night's lineup was the 102nd different lineup used by the Cubs this season. ... Mark DeRosa picked up his sixth three-hit game of the season on Friday. ... Cliff Floyd has hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games with at least one at-bat, with three doubles and seven RBIs.

Minor matters: Geovany Soto continues to rake at Triple-A Iowa, hitting two more homers and a double on Thursday night. The catcher leads the PCL with a .361 batting average, to go with 23 homers and 99 RBIs this year. He is in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak. ... Mark Holliman, a third-round Draft pick in 2005, has 10 wins and a 3.50 ERA for Double-A Tennessee. ... Since being promoted to Double-A, highly touted pitching prospect Jeff Samardzija has won three of his four starts and posted a 2.70 ERA. He allowed just one run in six innings in his last start on Friday night. ... The team's first-round pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, outfielder Tyler Colvin, is hitting a combined .298 with 13 homers and 76 RBIs between Class A and Double-A.

Up next: The Cubs will close out this three-game series with the National League West-leading D-backs on Sunday afternoon. Jason Marquis will take the mound for Chicago against Arizona's Yusmeiro Petit. First pitch is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. CT.