Could ‘Prior’ Restraint Have Helped The Cubs?

Today’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Earlier this season, longtime Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood called it a career at the age of 35 after compiling an 86-75 record, 1,582 strikeouts – and 16 trips to the disabled list during his 14 injury-riddled seasons.

Meanwhile, out in Rhode Island, a 31-year-old Mark Prior is still trying to make a comeback – as a reliever – with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox following two shoulder surgeries and three failed stints with the Padres, Rangers and the Orange County Flyers of the Independent League.

With shades of 2003 still haunting their dreams, every Cubs fan thinks about “what could have been” over the past decade had Wood and Prior not broken down time and time and, well, time again. But could something have really been different if the Cubs and manager-turned-punching-bag Dusty Baker had handled their one-time pitching wunderkinds in a different way?

Like, say, the way the Washington Nationals are planning to handle Stephen Strasburg right now?

Currently, the Nats are hot topic of debate in baseball circles due to their plans to shelve their 24-year-old ace for the season after Strasburg – who is in his first season after retuning from “Tommy John” elbow surgery – reaches 160 to 180 innings. He’s now at 139 1/3 after Wednesday’s victory over the Giants during which he struck out seven and walked four in six innings.

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