Instead, the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal after liking what they saw late last year. Prior is trying to make it as a reliever. Even he says he “is a realist,” which means he almost certainly must go to Triple-A to prove he can stay healthy and still get hitters out.
“Once I decided to give this one more try after the 2009 season, I decided it was no looking back, no living in the past,” Prior said. “I know where my place was supposed to be and what my ability was. But I am here now.”
“It is not the career path I envisioned, but it is the career path I am on,” Prior said. “So be it. No regrets.”
The Yankees have invited a few players this offseason to spring training with the idea that if they don’t make the team they’ll probably move on as free agents. Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Eric Chavez, and Ronnie Belliard are examples of these types of players. If they don’t make the Yankees out of spring, they’re probably never going to be Yankees.
I have wondered if Mark Prior is in this situation, but without more details on his contract it has been hard to say if this is indeed a similar situation. Two spots the Yankees rotation are open, but Prior isn’t up for a rotation spot. Instead he’s trying to land a spot in the bullpen, but the Yankees have six spots filled already and the final opening will probably go to a longman like Sergio Mitre or Ivan Nova.
That’s going to be a tough bullpen to crack, one that Prior is going to have a tough time making. So my fear was that Prior would have been gone before he even got here. Fortunately, it seems like Prior knows exactly the situation he is in. The cocky young pitcher he was is gone and an older and more realistic guy has taken his place.
If he starts the season in the minors, stays healthy, and pitches well though there will inevitably come a time where the Yankees will need to call on him. He’s not likely to play a big role with this club, but there is a strong possibility that he will get the opportunity to be a contributor as long as he is willing to work his way up through the minors. Luckily it sounds like he’s willing to do that.