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Prior, Penny Took Different Routes

October 08, 2003|From Times Wire Services

Consider Mark Prior and Brad Penny opposite sides of the college baseball coin. Prior, 23, came out of USC one of the most heralded college pitchers of all time, which accounted for his being the second pick of the 2001 draft. He spent all of seven weeks in the minors last year before coming to the Cubs and staying.

His pitching opponent in Game 2 today, Penny, 25, came out of Broken Arrow, Okla., without college and spent four years in the minor leagues. He was Arizona's fifth-round pick in 1996 and was dealt before ever being tested at the major league level.

Talent is the ultimate determining factor if or how fast a player makes it to the big leagues but, "you do move college guys quicker than you do high school guys," Marlin pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal said.

"They're more mature physically and they have thrown 100 or so innings in a year. Prior threw a lot of innings in college. In high school you get three or four good hitters in a lineup, maybe. Maybe. College, six or seven. You get to the minors and the big leagues, eight. In other words, all of them."

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Time hasn't necessarily mellowed Florida Marlin Manager Jack McKeon, 72, but it has altered his perspective.

"I probably would have been more selfish 30 years ago, thinking about myself," McKeon said. "Now I think about how can I help these young guys become an All-Star.

"I don't need the ego, the publicity. I've been 50-some years in baseball and now the enjoyment is watching some guy improve after you've encouraged him."

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The Cubs kept the same 25-man roster as the division series, leaving left-hander Shawn Estes and infielder Tony Womack off the championship series roster. With Florida having so many right-handed hitters, Manager Dusty Baker said having Juan Cruz in the bullpen makes more sense.... Randall Simon played first in Game 1 and is likely to start again in Game 2 against Penny. "If I don't play him now and I don't play him [Wednesday] against [Penny], that'd be six days without him doing anything other than pinch-hitting, because [Eric] Karros is going to play against [left-handers Mark] Redman and [Dontrelle] Willis. I have got to continue doing what I've been doing, keeping everybody sharp." ... Plate umpire Jerry Crawford had to leave Game 1 because he was not feeling well. Crawford was replaced to start the bottom of the fourth inning by Mike Reilly, who began the game in right field.

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