© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

02/22/07 5:36 PM ET

Cubs' Prior throws to live hitters

Right-hander among group that focus on strikes, comfort

MESA, Ariz. -- Mark Prior is well ahead of last year's pace.

Prior was one of 14 Cubs pitchers who threw 25 pitches to hitters on Thursday at Fitch Park. Since the right-hander didn't face hitters at all last spring, this was a big step.

"I felt good out there," Prior said. "It's nice to have normal days. Show up, get a good's night sleep, and have some fun.

"I just take it every day and keep having positive days, and the more positive days the better," he said.

That's exactly what the Cubs want from the right-hander, who was limited to nine starts last season because of injuries. The team had taken a different approach in spring 2006 to avoid any setbacks, but this year, Prior is doing everything the other pitchers are doing. His offseason conditioning program has obviously paid off.

"Today, I went out and was trying to throw fastballs, and throw strikes," he said. "I wasn't trying to do anything more than just split the plate in half. I wasn't so much worried about throwing on the black or the corner. With the group I was facing, I wasn't about to run one in there with [Derrek Lee] or Jacque [Jones] or one of those guys because I would've been run out of town."

His focus was on throwing strikes and getting comfortable, which is what the Cubs wanted from all the pitchers who threw Thursday.

"It's good to see somebody in there," Prior said of facing hitters. "You get a read on what your pitches are doing, the way they're hitting them. For me, it reaffirms that you can throw 25 pitches -- and I threw 19 relatively around the plate -- and they hit some good, and they didn't hit some good. You don't always have to be perfect."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.