Mark Prior is healthy and trying to win bullpen job with Reds

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com has an update on Mark Prior’s latest comeback attempt with the Reds, which so far has involved a few relief appearances.

Prior told Sheldon that he’s fully healthy and generally pleased with his performance, but the most interesting part of the article is this quote from the former phenom about his life among minor leaguers in recent years:

Some of these guys were born in 1995. They were seven or eight years old when I broke in and I broke in young. I think it surprises people when I tell them I’m 32 because they think I should be older. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you’re looking at it, I’ve been in extended [spring] and around a lot of minor league guys. They have enthusiasm for the game.

I’m on the back side of my career. They’re on the front side. You enjoy seeing their desire to play and their will to play. It’s refreshing. I can’t keep up with them necessarily running and stuff. They keep you having fun. They’re fun to hang out with. I’ve enjoyed my time in the minor leagues the last few years. I don’t want to be there, nobody wants to be there, but it’s a good bunch of guys.

Prior finished third in the Cy Young voting at age 22, but then saw what had the potential to be a Hall of Fame career ruined by injuries and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006. The fact that he’s still trying to make it back to the big leagues six years later and has such a good attitude about the struggles he’s gone through in the process is pretty remarkable.

Hard not to root for the guy.

Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”