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Dodgers hire former Cub Mark Prior

He’ll be back in the big leagues in 2018.

Photo by Jon Soohoo/Getty Images

Mark Prior, who streaked across the baseball horizon as a star for a brief time with the Cubs, will be returning to Wrigley Field this year for the first time since 2006:

The way Prior’s career ended certainly wasn’t what he wanted, nor what we had hoped from him as Cubs fans. His last big-league appearance was in August 2006 and he last pitched at Wrigley August 5, 2006 against the Pirates.

Then he went on an odyssey in the minor leagues with the Padres, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox and Reds before hanging it up as a player after the Reds released him in mid-2013. He was out of baseball for a couple of years before, as noted, being hired as the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Padres, his hometown team.

Prior is 37 years old — just 3½ years older than Jon Lester, but he was out of the big leagues only a couple of months after Lester made his big-league debut.

Let’s pause to remember how good Prior could have been. The Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2001, he was in the major leagues the next year and in 2003, at age 22, he was an All-Star and finished third in Cy Young voting.

And then, the injuries. Most of his 2004 season was ruined. In 2005 he was hit on the elbow by a line drive off the bat of Brad Hawpe of the Rockies, an injury that at first looked like it might be season-ending, if not career-ending. He was back pitching four weeks later. In hindsight, that might have been a mistake. The 2005 Cubs weren’t going anywhere and maybe, if Prior had taken longer to heal, his career...

Well, anyway, that’s ancient history at this point. Congratulations to Prior for getting a big-league coaching job; perhaps a stint as a pitching coach might be in his future. The Dodgers, the Cubs’ opponent in the last two NLCS, will be at Wrigley Field June 18-19-20... and who knows, maybe again in the NLCS next October.

Mark Prior is one of the biggest “what might have been” in Cubs history. Glad to see him following another baseball dream. I wish him well.