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More Game Thoughts

Mark Prior threw only 79 pitches in his efficient six shutout innings; Dusty Baker had said earlier that he was going to limit Prior to 85-90 pitches, which implied he could have gone another inning.

All's well that ends well, of course, since the bullpen did a great job and Aramis Ramirez gave everyone some breathing room in the 9th.

But something like this brings up the question of why managers baby today's professional athletes so much. There are so many people, including in particular The Cub Reporter, who keeps a "Pitcher Abuse Watch" on his site, who say that Dusty lets pitchers go way too long, and in some cases, that's true.

79 pitches is hardly too many for an athlete like Mark Prior, whose injury was not muscular. I also commend Prior for resisting (I presume he had to resist) a rehab assignment. Frankly, I think those are a waste of time. If a player on the DL is healthy, what purpose would it serve to send Prior down to face Triple-A (or worse, Double-A) hitters? What is the point of sending a hitter to Iowa, for example, where he serves as DH for a couple of games and goes 5-for-8 or something like that against mediocre pitching? How do those kind of things get anyone ready to face major league competition?

I like the competitive fire of Prior -- he clearly wanted to pitch even a week ago, and the Cubs wouldn't let him. The other side of this coin, of course, is the fact that by missing all this time, Prior might be stronger down the stretch, and that can only help the team. Last night was his 20th start, and with 51 games remaining, he'll probably make ten more. That would put him right around 200 innings for the season, rather than the 230 that he was on pace for before the injury.

For a 22-year-old in his second professional season, that's probably not a bad thing. His next matchup will be against Kevin Brown on Sunday. That ought to be terrific -- and with both the Dodgers and Cubs playing four-game series next Monday through Thursday, we should see a repeat performance in Wrigley Field on Friday the 15th.