Mark Prior is "having a blast" playing independent league ball

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Mark Prior is making his latest and perhaps last comeback attempt with the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden League, and Tom Krasovic of Fanhouse caught up with the former phenom who said he’s “having a blast … just getting back out there and just playing the game.”

Prior is seeing game action for the first time since 2008, when he “felt something like a firecracker going off in my shoulder” while trying to make it back to the majors with the Padres. Once a dominant starter with Hall of Fame potential Prior is now working as a reliever in the hopes that shorter outings can finally keep him healthy at age 29.

According to Krasovic his fastball is in the high-80s and low-90s, topping out at 92 miles per hour. Before all the injuries, Prior averaged 94 mph. However, just a few weeks ago he was struggling to crack 90 mph, so Prior is hopeful that he can add even more velocity as he progresses.

Assuming, of course, that he can stay healthy.

I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s taken me awhile to get my arm healthy. I think it’s healthy. I think I’m starting to show that to people. Now I need to refine and retool everything after three or four years away from competitive games. I don’t think I’m going to come back as a starter right now. Right now my best goal and my best chance is to come back as a reliever.

I think my body will handle that better than trying to go out there and throw 110 pitches or 120 pitches every fifth day. Once I can show everybody that I’m healthy as a reliever, maybe get a full season under my belt as a reliever, maybe I’ll go back to that road [as a starter] and see what’s up.

Prior hasn’t been healthy and effective since 2005 and right now he’s pitching against low-level competition in front of a couple hundred fans per game, so regardless of role he’s still a long way from the big leagues.

Rougned Odor didn’t technically steal home, but he basically did

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Just saw this from last night’s Tigers-Rangers game. It was pretty wild.

Rougned Odor walked in the seventh inning. He broke for second on a steal and was safe due to the throw going wild, allowing him to reach third base. The Tigers called on reliever Daniel Stumpf and he was effective in retiring the next two batters, leaving Odor on third with two out.

Stumpf, a lefty, was paying no attention whatsoever to Odor, so Odor just took off for home, attempting a straight steal. Stumpf was so surprised that he tried to throw home to nail Odor, and in so doing, he balked. That technically means that Odor scored on the balk, but I think it’s safe to say he would’ve scored on the strait steal regardless. Watch:

 

He definitely gets points for style.

 

Aroldis Chapman is pitching himself out of a job

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.

It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.

It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.

Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:

“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”

That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.