The Cincinnati Reds have signed free agent right-hander Mark Prior to a minor league contract, according to John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prior has not appeared in the majors since 2006, as he's been dealing with an array of shoulder problems.
The agreement with Cincinnati reunites Prior with Dusty Baker, who managed the right-hander when the duo were members of the Chicago Cubs. In fact, John Fay reports that it was Prior who first reached out to Dusty. According to Dusty, “(Mark) called me and said asked for a chance. I talked to Walt (Jocketty). (Prior) says he feels good. He feels like he has some unfinished business."
It was with the Cubs that Prior rose through the minors as a top prospect and won 18 games while posting a 2.43 ERA in 2003 as a 22-year-old. It would mark his only 30-start campaign in the bigs, as he was eventually released by Chicago following the 2006 season.
Prior went on to spend a few seasons with the San Diego Padres, but his shoulder never allowed him to officially log an inning with the organization. He wouldn't appear in the minors again until 2010 with the Rangers.
Over five years in the majors, Prior owns a career ERA of 3.51 with a 3.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Last year in AAA Pawtucket for the Red Sox, Prior had an ERA of 3.96 and 38 strikeouts in 25 innings of relief.
On the rare occasions that Prior has been healthy, he has been effective and has shown glimpses of his 2003 effort. If (and this is an elephant-sized "if") Prior can put together a few good weeks, he may be a dark horse to win one of the final relief spots in the Reds bullpen.