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I needn’t go over the sad, shattered history of Mark Prior. The former Chicago Cubs employee has had a long way back to professional baseball after shoulder looseness and amorphous elbow issues robbed him of his effectiveness more than three years ago. But he’s going to get a shot to pitch again, this time with the independent Golden Baseball League.

Prior, a former first-round Draft pick who has had a career plagued with injuries, signed with the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League on Tuesday. Prior spent last season working back to health in San Diego’s organization and is hoping to pitch his way into position for another chance at the Majors.

Prior, the second overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, shot through the Minor Leagues and attained star status virtually immediately upon his promotion to the Cubs. The right-hander finished third in the National League’s Cy Young balloting in ’03, thanks to an 18-9 record and a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts.

Unfortunately, that was the last time he pitched a complete season. Prior missed two months with an Achilles tendon injury in ’04, and he missed time due to a compression fracture in his pitching elbow in ’05. Prior missed another two months in ’06 with a strained shoulder, and he hasn’t been able to make it back to the Majors since.

Prior underwent shoulder surgery and missed the entire ’07 season, and after signing with the Padres, he re-aggravated his shoulder condition toward the end of his rehabilitation period. Prior had a season-ending surgery again in ’08, and he spent last season with the Padres on a Minor League contract. cubs.com.

Prior is expected to pitch out of the bullpen before crumpling in a heap of despair, and lifting a homemade sign that reads, “Cautionary Tale: Stephen Strasburg, Invest Wisely.”

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