Pitch limit in Friday start unspecified

CHICAGO -- Cubs right-hander Mark Prior, out since the start of the season with a sore Achilles tendon and tender elbow, will make his season debut Friday afternoon against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

"You really don't know what to expect," Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's been off for a long time. I'm sure he'll be on a pitch count. I guess we'll see."

Prior threw 32 pitches off the mound at Wrigley on Wednesday and pronounced himself ready. He will be on a pitch limit Friday, one the Cubs aren't revealing. He will oppose Josh Fogg (3-4, 6.90 ERA).

Prior, 18-6 last season, said he's done all the work necessary to return -- including three rehab starts -- since the injuries started bothering him this spring.

"I think early in spring training we pushed it a little bit, but after that we mapped out a plan and we knew what it was all along," Prior said this week.

"Not having any setbacks made it a lot easier. We just stuck to the plan and went from there."

Prior also spent time on the disabled list last season when he hurt his shoulder after colliding with Atlanta's Marcus Giles on the basepaths.

After returning to the rotation in early August, he went 10-1 in
the final two months and pitched the Cubs into the postseason.

The 23-year-old right-hander said he's not expecting anything
out of the ordinary despite the hype over his return. He said
Wednesday's session helped him get readjusted to the sight lines
from the regular mound.

"I think I've been through a lot my first two years and I'm
sure I'll experience some new things over my career. But as far I'm
concerned this will probably be -- unless something strange happens
-- just like pitching again," he said.

With nine players on the disabled list, the Cubs need a boost
and they're counting on Prior to provide one.

"I'm not here to do anything special. I'm here to do what I
have to do. And that's pitch innings and pitch ball games," he
said, "not try to project five starts down the line or six starts
down the line. Just worry about what's going on in front of me."

The Cubs sent right-hander Sergio Mitre to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, clearing the way for Prior's activation. Mitre made nine starts for the Cubs and was 2-4 with a 6.51 ERA.