Prior Fans 10, Homers Twice In Triple-A Debut

May 7, 2002

AP Sports Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Chicago Cubs' hottest pitching prospect took twocurtain calls in his Triple-A debut - for his hitting.

Mark Prior gave up three hits in 7 2-3 innings, struck out 10 and hit twosolo home runs Tuesday night in the Iowa Cubs' 6-1 victory over Tucson.

'The two home runs, I got up in a nice wind stream out here,' Prior said.'I don't know where they came from.'

It was just the seventh professional start for Prior, the No. 2 pick in lastyear's amateur draft, and did nothing to slow his fast track to the majorleagues.

'We know he's on the fast track,' Chicago Cubs manager Don Baylor saidafter hearing what Prior had done. 'He's going to be fun to watch - for a longtime.'

All three hits off Prior were singles, including two soft bloopers intoright field. The lone run was unearned, he walked two and struck out the sidein the first and third innings.

Prior threw his fastball in the 90- to 94-mph range all night, and mixed itwith an effective curve that often left batters frozen. He threw only a coupleof changeups.

'It wasn't a situation where I needed to throw it a whole lot,' Priorsaid. 'We talked about it the first couple of innings. We were waiting to seeif they started cheating on my fastball. They didn't do that.'

Put on a 110-pitch limit, Prior was pulled with two outs in the eighth andno one on as fans booed. The 21-year-old right-hander made 111 pitches, 73 forstrikes, and left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 8,243.

If that wasn't enough, Prior hit solo home runs in the fifth and seventhinnings, both to left-center off Horacio Estrada. He stepped out of the dugoutfor curtain calls both times, tipping his cap as the fans cheered.

'I've never done those before,' he said. 'Everybody tried to push me outthere. That was interesting.'

Prior homered in his fifth game at Double-A West Tenn, also to left-center.

Word that Prior was pitching brought out the biggest crowd of the season forthe I-Cubs, and the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder quickly electrified the gatheringwith a near perfect first inning - three strikeouts on 10 pitches.

His first four pitches were strikes and fans booed when his fifth was calleda ball. He came right back with five straight strikes to finish the inning andtrotted off the mound to a standing ovation.

'Unbelievable,' Prior said. 'I knew the fans were great at Wrigley, Iknew the Cubs had a great following, but they were awesome here today. Tonightwas really special. I'm happy they welcomed me. It was a lot of fun.

'I think they were a big reason I did as well as I did tonight.'

Prior had dominated batters in the same fashion during his brief stint atWest Tenn, where he was 4-1 with a 2.60 earned-run average in six starts.

He struck out 55 in 34 2-3 innings and opponents batted only .198 againsthim. Prior gave up four earned runs in his loss but only six in his other fivestarts.

Prior's only tough inning Tuesday night was the fifth, when he walked MicahFranklin leading off and gave up his only run, driven in by Willie Morales'single after shortstop Luis Ordaz booted a grounder.

Prior is due to pitch again Sunday against Las Vegas.

'Unfortunately, I've got to try to repeat this,' he said with a smile.

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