It's still mostly downhill for Cubs' Wood, Prior

They were supposed to be perennial 20-game winners, the Koufax and Drysdale of this generation.

Instead, they are the two most recent and public examples of why Hall of Fame plaques aren't commissioned on potential.


Kerry Wood won 13 games as a Chicago Cubs rookie in 1998, including one game in which he struck out 20 batters.

Mark Prior won six games for the Cubs in his first year as a pro in 2002 and followed that up with 18 big league wins the next season. Through July, the once-dynamic duo had one win between them this season, continuing an ugly and sad trend of wounded promise.


After the 2003 season, Wood had a career record of 59-41 and Prior's was 24-12. Since then, injuries have derailed both. Wood is 12-15 and Prior is 18-16, including his first win of 2006 yesterday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For some perspective, consider this: The Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez has won seven more games since 2004 than Wood and Prior combined.

If the two ever pitch together again, it likely won't be in the same rotation. Wood, on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury, said last week he believes his future is as a reliever.

There also is a legitimate question as to whether Wood will be a Cub in 2007. The club has a $13.5 million option with a $3 million buyout, which it surely will exercise unless a new deal can be worked out.

"Being [in Chicago] is part of my mind-set, but as a starter, it's probably not going to be," Wood said. "I need to pitch, get some innings in and be healthy. Probably the best way for me to do that is to limit the innings and the pitches until I can be comfortable to make 30 starts and throw 110 pitches every fifth day."

Neither Wood nor Prior has made 30 starts in a season since 2003.

Way back when

When new San Diego Padre Todd Walker was asked Tuesday about the last time he took ground balls at third base, he joked, "about 30 minutes ago." When pressed, Walker, a second baseman/first baseman with the Cubs who will play primarily at third for the Padres, admitted it was in 1997 with the Minnesota Twins.


"There's going to be an adjustment period," Walker, 33, said. "Hopefully, the people are patient."

Keeping the Joneses

The Atlanta Braves discussed trading center fielder Andruw Jones to Boston last week, but the Red Sox didn't want to include left-handed starter Jon Lester in the package. Jones, 29, is a free agent after 2007 and is represented by Scott Boras. Last winter, Boras got center fielder Johnny Damon a four-year, $52 million deal from the New York Yankees, so Jones will batter someone's checkbook next offseason.

Quick hits

Washington's neophyte outfielder Alfonso Soriano collected his 16th assist Wednesday and is on pace to tie the franchise record of 24 set in 1978 by Montreal's Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie. ... Former Colorado manager and Orioles outfielder Don Baylor received a warm ovation before a Rockies game last week while in Denver to promote Baylor, 57 and a cancer survivor, says he wants to manage again.