TAMPA, Fla. -- Mark Prior's short stint in a rookie-level Gulf Coast League game on Friday didn't exactly begin in awe-inspiring fashion -- with two wild throws during warmups and the first batter he faced clunked in the head -- but the 30-year-old was pleased with the increased velocity on his fastball and the large speed difference on his breaking ball.
"It felt really good," said Prior, who tossed nine strikes in the 16-pitch outing, which lasted one inning. "The velocity is there. So is the arm strength. But the biggest part is the drive with the hip, where there's no problem. My back feels fine, my hip feels good. It's good to get out there."
Pitching two days after being hit on the left forearm by a ball during batting practice, Prior seemed as though he would have a tough go of it facing the GCL Braves at the Yankees' Minor League facility when he hit Gerardo Reyes with the fourth pitch. After Reyes stole second on the next pitch, the 6-foot-5 right-hander looked sharp in fielding a bunt by Luis de Luna and tossing the ball to first for an out.
Prior then recorded two strikeouts on 10 pitches, both on nasty curveballs that were clocked at 79 mph and 80 mph. His fastball throughout the outing ranged between 90 mph and 92 mph.
"I figured something out with the grip, and I kind of hold it like a slider now," said Prior, who has made just one Minor League appearance because of a strained groin and back soreness since pitching on April 18 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. "It used to go back too far, so I changed my grip just a tiny bit, and that's made a huge difference. I've been drawing on the ball to practice it, and that's helped out a lot."
Prior got the tip from Roy Halladay and said it's been useful.
"I have a lot more trust and confidence with it now," he said.
Prior has struggled with shoulder injuries, and made his last Major League appearance in August 2006. He went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts for the National League Central champion Cubs in 2003.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.