Chicago Cubs ace Mark Prior probably won't pitch until May because of inflammation in his right Achilles' tendon and a stiff elbow.
"I'd say May 1 or the first week of May is optimistic," general manager Jim Hendry said yesterday. "He's a guy that I don't think needs more than three or four weeks to get ready."
Prior returned to spring training yesterday after spending Monday in Chicago, where he had an MRI and bone scan on his Achilles' tendon and right arm.
The righthander has not pitched in a spring training game because of the Achilles' injury and was already expected to start the season on the disabled list.
He's also felt "stiffness" in his pitching elbow. Prior, 23, has been throwing off a mound this spring.
Both the Cubs and Prior said the MRI and bone scan showed nothing but inflammation in the heel and elbow.
Prior was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in his first full big league season last year.
Nen, Eyre disabled
The San Francisco Giants placed closer Robb Nen and reliever Scott Eyre on the 15-day disabled list. Nen, a three-time All-Star, is trying to recover from three shoulder operations that caused him to miss the entire 2003 season. Eyre strained his lower back during an 8-5 win over the Oakland Athletics in a split-squad game last Friday . . . Baseball's chief labor negotiator expects an agreement soon with the players' association on a World Cup tournament, putting aside for now the larger issue of drug tests during the regular season. Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said the sides have concentrated on a drug-testing agreement for a World Cup because a decision must be made soon whether to launch the tournament before the 2005 season. "The focus is on the World Cup because of the timing. But we are equally concerned about the larger issue," he said in Tokyo. "We need an agreement in order to have the World Cup tournament. We have an independent set of concerns with respect to certain aspects of the major league policy." . . . Sidney Ponson pitched five effective innings in his final tuneup before his first Opening Day start and the Baltimore Orioles roughed up Chris Carpenter in a 10-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Ponson allowed one run, seven hits, and a walk. The righthander will next face the Red Sox at Camden Yards Sunday night . . . The Florida Marlins signed Worcester native Tanyon Sturtze to a minor league contract and he pitched a perfect inning of relief in a 3-3 tie with Montreal . . . Ken Griffey was out of the lineup but in good spirits yesterday, an indication the strained right calf muscle the Cincinnati outfielder suffered Monday is nothing to worry about . . . Oakland shortstop Mark Ellis said reports that he'll miss the entire season are premature. Ellis suffered a separated shoulder last week and will have an MRI when the swelling subsides. "[The reports are] not right yet. It might be in the end, but not now."