Prior relishes role as Minors pitching coordinator

Prior relishes role as Minors pitching coordinator

SAN DIEGO -- A year ago, while still an assistant in the Padres' baseball operations department, Mark Prior wasn't quite sure what to make of the Minor League pitching coordinator job.

"Last year, looking at the coordinator job from a player's perspective, I didn't truly know what was all involved," Prior said.

Prior, the former big league pitcher, has found out quickly enough this spring. He's six-or-so weeks into his job as the first-year Minor League pitching coordinator, where he has a chance to impact pitchers throughout the system.

That has equated to spending the early part of this season bouncing around among the Minor League affiliates -- El Paso (Triple-A), San Antonio (Double-A), Lake Elsinore (High-A), Fort Wayne (low-A) and the extended spring training team in Arizona.

It has been a whirlwind experience thus far, spending around three days with each team, its pitchers and its coaches, before moving on. But Prior has clearly found his niche.

"Coaching, the administrative work, touching on different aspect of the game, communicating with different people in the organization ... it's been awesome," Prior said Wednesday from Lake Elsinore.

Prior, 34, was involved in various aspects of baseball operations a year ago, including amateur and professional scouting. He also saw several of the team's Minor League clubs. Last fall, he sat down with general manager A.J. Preller, who asked him what he wanted to do next.

Prior, who makes his home in San Diego, told Preller that the only aspect of the job he didn't get to touch a year ago was the development side. In February, he was named as the team's Minor League pitching coordinator.

He was in Spring Training -- first in big league camp, then with the Minor League pitchers when they reported in early March.

So what exactly does Prior look for and want to accomplish during each visit to an affiliate?

"For me, the way I approach it, is that at each level you're looking at different things. With El Paso, you're looking at options for the big league team. At Double-A it's how they're handling the transition from A-ball," he said.

"In A-ball, it's a different conversation. They're coming out of their first year, and you want to see how they're throwing, see if they're getting used to a routine and also trying to evaluate them."

Prior has also been able to share his own experiences -- being in the big leagues at age 21, the highs of pitching in the postseason, the lows of a career cut short by injury and everything in-between.

"I've truly loved every minute of it," Prior said. "Being able to help them achieve their dream, whether that's a small part of it or a large part, that's been the best part."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.