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Prior's Injury: Timeline of Events

As this Mark Prior shoulder injury thing continues to pick up steam, I thought it might make sense for me to lay out an estimated timeline for those not located in Chicago.

February 20th, 11am:  Baseball Prospectus injury analyst Will Carroll mentions a tip he's received claiming that Mark Prior is nursing shoulder problems within a spring training injury notebook.

February 20th, 11:05am:  Major League GMs and other BP subscribers read Carroll's report and nod knowingly.  Cubdom reactsBlogs were all over this one for the next few hours.

February 20th, afternoon:  Carroll appears on Chicago sports talk station 670 The Score to talk about the rumor.  Various members of Chicago print media listen to the radio show and first hear about the possible Prior injury.  It is immediately branded an "Internet rumor" and is decided that the nerdy website from which it originated uses too many numbers.

February 20th, evening:  Majority of said sportswriters deem the rumor unworthy of tomorrow's column, and instead go back to writing cutting edge essays on why they hate Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

February 21st, morning:  Reporters in Mesa, Arizona, unwilling to give credence to the rumor but afraid to miss out on the scoop, quiz Prior and Dusty Baker on it.  Prior does not acknowledge the rumor as true, but strangely neglects to simply say, "My shoulder is perfectly healthy."

February 21st, evening:  Members of Chicago print media Google the name "Will Carroll" for tomorrow's column.  They learn that he is neither a doctor nor in Arizona, thereby debunking the rumor.  They do not attempt to contact Carroll.

February 22nd, morning: Members of Chicago print media take baseless shots at Carroll yet take the Cubs to task for not being forthright about injuries within the same column.  The aura of unprofessionalism surrounding all Internet media is maintained and print journalists keep their jobs.

Interesting side note: An advertisement for Will Carroll's radio show appears in the Baseball Cube listing for Prior (it has for a while, if I recall correctly).                    


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The thing I don't understand is that he writes his BP article and then when the crap hits the fan he writes a message on his blog about how he heavily disclaimed it altogether. Then goes on and attacks Hendry and company. I like Carroll's work but this whole thing has gotten a little out of hand.
I love the fear you can take from what a sports writers writes. I would think most would use websites like BP to help back up their disagreements with what management does. Instead they just try to discredit them as much as possible.

It is bizarre that a site like BP would be discredited by a writer like Phil Rogers. How is that even possible? Slowly but surely, newspapers and the old guard will lose their foothold.

unfortunately it is a slow process. Thankfully their are some writers that are doing some solid reporting. I'm a big fan of Bruce Miles myself. he seems like one of the more credible and better writers in the Chicago sports media.

Ahhhh, the wonders of how people are always looking to stir up bad rumors. It makes me chuckle listening to these monkeys speak out their ridiculous rumor.

Yeah, I like Bruce. I think he respects websites and is one of Chicago's best.

How in the world is a hidden Prior injury a ridiculous rumor? Even if it's dismissed as rumor and Prior makes 33 starts, it's very believable that the Cubs are hiding a Prior injury for the third spring in a row.

"How in the world is a hidden Prior injury a ridiculous rumor? Even if it's dismissed as rumor and Prior makes 33 starts, it's very believable that the Cubs are hiding a Prior injury for the third spring in a row."

I wouldn't call it ridiculous, but I would like to know where the information came from. Why can't he disclose that information? The fact Prior has not come out and stated that his shoulder is fine is a bit fishy to me. The Cubs PR over the past few years has really gone in the toilet. I'd like to believe this is nothing more then a made up rumor, but until I see Prior take the mound and throw 100% you just never know...

A quote from Baker in the Chicago Tribune article is exactly the problem here:

"He's progressing, like he said," Baker said. "You can't believe reports unless it comes from us. If it doesn't come from us, then it doesn't count. Mark is doing good."

The problem is the Cubs have used up any credibility they once had, and you CAN'T believe reports if they come from the organization.

On the subject of Sullivan trashing Carroll, i just find it amusing. The best baseball writing these days doesn't appear in the papers, it appears on baseball blogs and columns all over the net. The only reason to pay attention to the beat writers is when a story originally breaks. And even when that happens, the "story" often varies from paper to paper. When you throw in the agendas many sportswritrs let affect their work, their columns become even more worthless.

Carroll is very respectable and typically demonstrates a great deal of knowledge about whatever/whomever he is talking about. However...a lot of people want to say it's fishy that Prior hasn't come out and specifically said his shoulder is 100% healthy, but I think it's even fishier that Carroll offered no real reason for his statements other than the afore-mentioned "top-secret source." I don't think he's lying, but it's quite possible that his source was very, very misinformed--it happens all the time in the world of baseball.

As for the Cubs losing credibility, they certainly did in 2003. They seemed to take a step in the right direction last year, but it's going to take more than one season of honesty and accuracy to make up for the debaucle in '03.

In regards to Prior's shoulder...I think it's fine. Everybody aside from "Dr. Mike" has touted Prior's near-flawless mechanics (myself and my pitching coach included, so if he is injured I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong) for years. The only complaint that anybody has been able to make in regards to his delivery is the violence with which he delivers his curveball. That would cause ulnar and/or elbow damage more than shoulder damage, so let's debunk that being the cause of the supposed-shoulder ailment. Now, having said that, let's analyze things a bit:

-Prior only missed one start aside from the Hawpe liner, and that was the first start of the season.

-Prior made a significant number of pitches in his starts at the end of last year, so we saw no signs of shoulder weakness at that point in time.

-NOTHING at all was leaked during the off-season about Prior having any discomfort or pain in his shoulder. If we have time to speculate whether or not the man is upset about possibly being mentioned in trade rumors, we'd probably find out about a significant injury to his shoulder.

-While not pitching off a mound, he's been doing bunt practice, towel drills, and long toss...while not as strenuous as pitching off a mound, all of these activities do, obviously, put exertion on the shoulder.

So, looking at all of these facts, my point is, when did Prior suffer this shoulder injury or discomfort? If it happened at some point in time last season, he pitched right through it without missing a start. If it happened early in the off-season, how come we heard nothing at all about it (also, how did it occur, since he wouldn't have been pitching? weight training is really the only thing that comes to mind)? If it happened a couple of weeks ago, and it was of any significance or severity, he wouldn't be putting exertion on his shoulder now or preparing to pitch off a mound in the next few days.

Sounds like a lot of speculation caused by him not being on the mound the day pitchers and catchers reported. If he indeed was suffering from pharyngitis and had to be hospitalized, in addition to injuries for the past 2 years, I can see why Cubs brass wouldn't want him going balls-to-the-wall just yet.

Didn't the Cubs disguise elbow inflammation as an Achilles injury last spring?

One other sign that may point to a recurring elbow problem is his loss of control the last two seasons.

the other thing to think about is a lot of times when a guy hurts like an elbow or something he tries to compensate in his delivery and that causes another injury such as the bum shoulder

ryan,your must have never taken any kind of medical classes.If you hurt your elbow your mechanics will vary thus putting more stress on the shoulder thus causing the problems he's probably having that the cubs don't want to talk about because that would pretty much screw thier season.My suggestion become a cards fan you won't have these HUGE disapointments every year.If i was a Cub fan i would want a new pitching staff and manager.Those dudes are meat grinders.

you know, i really hope it isn't true. i would love to think that all is well and prior will be on the mound on opening day. until that happens... put me in the skeptical line.

The answer to your question RumorMonger is no: The Cubs did not hide an injury to Prior's achilles or elbow last spring. First of all he never hurt his achilles last year, and as soon as the Cubs were aware that his elbow had some MINOR inflammation, everyone was notified. I stress minor becuase if you remember correctly, Prior proceeded to go something like 3-0 w? an ERA less than 1 in the first month of the season, prior to getting beaned in the elbow by a comebacker. Also if you remember correctly, Prior wasn't even aware of any elbow injury until AFTER his first Cactus Leage start. Immediately following this game when he found out his elbow hurt, he made everyone aware. Honestly, it just sounds to me like your trying to find things to fault the Cubs on because you want to stick up for Will Carroll and other internet writers. Maybe Will didn't deserve any criticism, but it also isn't fair to take shots at newspaper people, when you yourself are making false accusations.

I think you are wrong.


I proposed it as a question anyway, but I'm pretty sure the Cubs did this in the previous offseason. Even print journalists said so.

Yeah this happened in 2004 NOT last year, when they were extremely upfront about the "injury" that Prior had. So you can make the argument that ONE TIME the Cubs were not up front about injuries with Prior. In 2004 they hided an elbow injury with an Achilles injury. Last year NOTHING was done to hide the fact that Prior had hurt his shoulder. So it has not been "3 years in a row", it has been one time. We don't even know if Prior is really hurt now, meaning the Cubs wouldn't be hiding anything. And last year, Prior's injury was practically nothing. The guy OWNED in the first month, missing one start as a result of the inflammation.

The Cubs have only themselves to blame for their lack of credibility. For whatever reason they repeatedly missed on timetable and explanations of injuries for Wood and Prior in the past couple of years. (It doesn't help when Dusty says he's talked with Todd Walker all winter long about his situation and Todd says they never actually talked).

While I don't know why Carrol would be short sighted enough to alienate himself from Prior and the Cubs, he may have his own motivations and the rumour may be out there for some self serving purpose.

However, wouldn't the Cubs have known that putting Prior on a different routine would fuel speculation anyhow? Why not inform the media early as to those plans? Does a viral infection in December really stop a pitcher from using his arm in mid-February? We didn't here the Cubs or Prior specifically deny he had any issue with the shoulder. It shocked me that Prior's name even came up in trade talks. Do the Cubs know a little somethin, somethin? To me Prior has never looked as good as he did since 2003 when he was dominant. I thought he may just be trying to protect his potential and big future contracts but perhaps there is something bothering him? Some pitchers pitch for years with nagging issues and pain and stay in denial. (See Wade Miller) Even if Prior starts the season, it still will be hard to tell, perhaps for years. Only Mark Prior knows for sure and he certainly has a motivation not to be completely forthright.

I am glad the poster created a log. I hope this log is updated as time goes by. Then it will be more clear as to who you can trust and who you can't.

The bottom line to me is that Prior has not had his '03 control in the past two seasons. Control is mostly in the elbow, so there's a fair chance something is wrong there.

Good point RumorMonger.

Maybey there is somthing here but the rumor is inaccurate as well.

Why are we talking about this?
Its not like the Cubs will be in the playoffs for this upcoming season.
3rd Place at best.
What a Shame...

What a flash-in-the-pan Prior was. Dumbest move of the offseason was not dealing him when 3 clubs were chasing him. Oops!

I'm not sure its fair to take shots at Prior's control. In 2003 Prior was 100% healthy and his control was outstanding. The past two years its been obvious he hasn't, and his control has suffered (although not quite as much as you may think). There's no way you can say he wouldn't have returned to 2003 form last year had it not been for the line drive to the elbow. Before that injury he certainly looked like the 03 Prior, and while you can't say that he definetly would have, it certainly looked like he was on track.

For the record, before his injury, Prior had 9 starts, was 4-1 (would've been 6-1 had it not been for two LaTroy Hawkins specialties), he had 63 Ks already, and had a good ERA of 2.93 (which was largely distorted because of one bad inning in Houston when he came unglued and allowed a grand-slam and a three run homer). I can't find his walk totals anywhere in there, but I know for a fact considering I saw every start he made, that he had no issues with BB whatsoever.

How can you know something for a fact without seeing any of the stats? Prior walked 2.13 per nine in '03, followed by 3.64 per nine in '04, and then 3.19 per nine in '05. That and way more HRs are the reason he went from great to good.

it is troubling that his walk rates have gone up an entire run or more per 9 since 03. it does look like after he got in the elbow his walk rate increase compared to prior. so hopefully any soreness he encountered due to being hit in the elbow are now gone or minimized.

Fine RumorMonger heres a stat:

18- The number of walks Prior had in April and May in 2005

21- The number of walks Prior had in April and May of 2003.

I think it would also be fair to suggest that Prior's control was more than likely affected negatively by the line drive in 2005, where in 2003 there was nothing to hurt his control. Had the injury not occured, it would not be farfetched to think that his walk numbers would have been comparable to 2003.

OK, that is a good point Jack. I'm a Prior fan; I hope you're right and that his walk rate is under 3 this year.

I think its also a little more than obvious that a lot of the people on this website simply want Prior to fail. How can you beat down a guy who's had less than great stats the past two years after he's had to deal with all the injuries. HE CAME BACK TO PLAY ONLY A MONTH AFTER A COMPRESSION FRACTURE! GIVE THE GUY A BREAK! Save criticism and evaluation for when he's 100% healthy. There have been 3 instances of which he was just that. All of 2003 in which you can make an argument he shoudl have won the Cy Young Award, the last month of 2004, and the first Month and a half of 2005 when he picked up right where he left off in '04. At all the other times in his careers he's been less than 100%. Now, if he never gets 100% healthy ever again, fine rip him all you want for being injury prone. But don't say he's lost control when he's been forced to pitch hurt most of the past two years. Also, save the injury prone tag for when he can't play because of a throwing related injury, which he has had 1.

I'm on the fence as to whether he's injury prone. Two collisions don't count against him, but elbow inflammation and the Achilles problem do. This year will be telling.

Jack: Very well said.

kev: "ryan,your must have never taken any kind of medical classes.If you hurt your elbow your mechanics will vary thus putting more stress on the shoulder"

Actually, I've never taken any medical classes, no. I've just been pitching for the last 14 years of my life. You're making a couple of pretty big assumptions with your theory:

1)You're assuming that Prior does have a bum elbow. This is debatable; he was saying in December at the Cubs Convention that it still hurt to bump into things, which would make me think he's feeling discomfort or slight pain in his right elbow. That does not, however, equal an elbow problem.

2) You're assuming that the pitcher in question--in this case Prior--altered his mechanics. You see, kev, you can have a plethora of elbow problems, but if you don't try to overcompensate, you're not going to put unnecessary stress on your shoulder (this is making the assumption that the elbow problem in question does not completely prevent one from throwing). You'll have less velocity, but not a bad shoulder. My basic point is that liner off the elbow in '05 DOES NOT equal a bad shoulder in '06.

Chuck Brown: Flash in the pan? Hmmm...okay, apparently someone doesn't want to look at history, so in a nutshell...
Career mark: 41-23
Career WHIP: 1.19
Career KBBR: 719:195==3.68
Career K/9: 10.55

Yeah, sounds like a really crappy pitcher to me. Why can't the Cubs dump his worthless hide? Oh, by the way, if you want to really see how "bad" Mark Prior is, I can drum up his college stats for you...

Rumor: I don't think the Cubs "hid" the elbow problem. I think a lot of conspiracy theorists seem to think so, but the only party who would know for certain, i.e., Prior, has stated that he wasn't hiding an elbow problem. That would lead me to believe (as I've hypothesized before) that Prior's Achille's Tendon wasn't strong enough and that he rushed back in '04. Without a solid base from which to pitch, you're bound to cause unnecessary tension or strain on the elbow, shoulder, and/or back. I think the Achille's caused the elbow.

As for his lack of control, that's a very good point. Control has always been a strength of Prior's, which is why his '04 and '05 marks in that department are a bit disheartening. It is highly likely that his increased BB/9 were a result of his injuries in '04 and the liner last season. Another thing I'll throw out there, though, is the batters he's facing. On more than one occasion last season he said that he was happy with his velocity, but that his fastball didn't have the same last-second movement that it used to. It's something very subtle, but it can make a difference.


your april and may stat looks nice on the surface but i dont think it means that much. that sample from 05 is in 19 less innings not to mention may was priors worst walk month of 03 to begin with.

re: NOTHING at all was leaked during the off-season about Prior having any discomfort or pain in his shoulder.

i have to interject, ryan, at the hazard of appearing self-serving that on january 22 one of our fellows was told by his friend in the organization that the cubs did indeed have concerns about prior's shoulder.


that rumor... followed by prior's late start... followed by carroll's rumor... followed by prior's (arguable) non-denial denial... in the context of a cub team that has the temerity to perpetrate ridiculous frauds like "internet elbow" and "achilles heel" on their fanbase...

doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. odds are even or better that prior's shoulder hurts -- and that regardless of whether or not he makes a start in the first week of april.

I'd definitely put money down that Prior does not make a start in the first week of April.

As a Cubs fan, I hope I'm wrong.

This morning I heard that after Prior woke up, he put on his robe and then walked to the bathroom.

Then, he urinated. After that, he walked to the kitchen and pulled out a box of wheaties but there was almost none left so he ate oatmeal instead.

Then, he went back to the bathroom and took a dump.

He will pitch some games this year. The flubs will lose.

The timeline is well done. It's amazing how the media has decided to attack Will Carroll, yet nobody trusts what the Cubs are saying. I'd say it's a bunch of journalists that are pissed off that a blogger beat them to the scoop.

I think that's exactly the case, CCD. It's only going to happen more and more because bloggers can get something published two minutes after they discover it.

gaius: That's not exactly a report of something being wrong with Prior, which was one of my original points. As much as I tend to disagree with Randy on a lot of things, he does have a point: We hear almost everything about Prior--whether it's relevant to baseball or not. Yet there were no reports of him having shoulder or elbow problems this off-season. The closest thing we have to that is Prior's statement at the Cubs Convention that it still hurt a little to bump his elbow into doorways. That does not equal a shoulder problem.

Prior has stated his shoulder feels fine. He could be lying. He could also be using creative truths, as maybe his shoulder feels fine...when he's not throwing. We don't know. But he's really the only source that matters. If he says he feels good to pitch now, that's fine. If he is ready to pitch at the start of the season, fantastic. But speculation from my brother's best friend's sister's dry-cleaner's wife's brother, who has a buddy who knows a guy that knows a guy that once shined Prior's shoes doesn't exactly count as a reliable source. While I am clearly stretching it quite a bit, all we have is two pieces of speculation--one of which has all but been retracted--that say Prior, who has denied it, is experiencing shoulder problems.

So, again, I'll go to my original points. If Prior didn't do something to directly injure his shoulder this off-season, then it must be a result of something that has happened in the past. He was able to pitch a significant number of pitches after he got eased back into things last season. While his control was a bit off, he wasn't claiming to experience any shoulder pain or discomfort, and he was going out and pitching every 5th day. Either he's okay, which is what I feel, or he injured himself doing something this off-season that only a couple of people know about, which, given the close eye kept on everything Prior does, is unlikely.

Although I often disagree with Ryan, he makes a good point here.

How many big league pitchers do you think there are that have NO discomfort anywhere on their bodies ?

All of these guys are battling something. They just have to pitch anyway. Some are better at it than others.

At the end of the day, all that matters is what they did, not what they could have done.

How many big league pitchers do you think there are that have NO discomfort anywhere on their bodies ?

I would say one, Tim Wakefield

Greg Maddux...

i rather agree to some extent, ryan -- i think they all have pain. having it in february is somewhat more troubling than having it in august... but i concede the point.

however, it should be noted that what newman over at our site and what carroll reported hearing wasn't that prior is done for the year -- it's really that some people in the cub organization are worried about his shoulder. bruce miles over at the herald also recently reported that the cubs were "keeping an eye" on his elbow AND shoulder. one might presuppose (given his late start) that this is because his shoulder hurts or has hurt, perhaps badly enough to render painkillers ineffective. but, to be clear, that's the limit of what people are rumoring.

gaius: But is he even truly feeling discomfort now? The main speculation started when Prior wasn't pitching due to being behind schedule because of pharyngitis leading to dehydration and hospitalization. It's possible that he's not feeling any unusual soreness at all. Whatever the case, he says that he feels fine. He feels as though he'll be ready to start pitching off a mound in the next day or so. And when everything's said and done, speculation from 2 sources not particularly close to Prior is irrelevant if he makes 30+ starts this season.

I really do feel that he's just been experiencing some growing pains the past couple of seasons. His mechanics are very, VERY good, and as long as he doesn't alter them, he'll be fine, once on the mound and not experiencing freak injuries or illnesses.

Randy: We've actually agreed with each other twice today. That's kinda weird...(I've got the theme to the Twilight Zone playing in my head right now)

Kyle: Even though a knuckleball doesn't put much strain on the body, Wake still does feel soreness and discomfort from day-to-day. The human body really isn't made for pitching--one of the most unnatural and unhealthy movements the body can make (speaking in generalities, of course).

diehard: I love Mad Dog as much as the next guy, but all the jelly donuts he eats in the off-season have to cause some discomfort:)

I know that it is unnatural I was just throwing out a name. Isnt submarine or something supposed to be the best delivery for your arm health

Kyle: It's still a somewhat unnatural movement for the body, but yes, pitching from a very low 3/4 or submarine puts much less stress on the shoulder than pitching from a high 3/4 arm slot. That is, of course, assuming that the submariner keeps their elbow at a 90 degree angle and doesn't open their shoulder while throwing. Not a personal fan of submariners, but it's worked for some people.

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