Prior still wants to pitch for Yankees this year

Mark Prior, sent all the way down to Class A ball this afternoon, still believes he can work his way back to the major leagues this year after a six-year absence. And Joe Girardi, the man who sent him down, agrees with him.

"I think I probably surprised a lot of people that I can still kind of hold my own at this level and I know I can,'' said Prior, who allowed one earned run in 7-2/3 innings this spring and posted a 1.17 ERA. "I know my stuff is not what it was, and I don’t expect it to be, but I know it’s good enough to play at this level still.''

Prior showed a good fastball and a decent breaking ball, striking out 11 batters. But he walked five, and was never asked to show that he could come into the middle of a tight inning, or go on back-to-back days, or pitch more than an inning at a time. Still, Girardi thought he showed enough to believe he might make it to Yankee Stadium this season.

"He has thrown the ball well, and I think he’s going to throw the ball better as time goes on, if he stays healthy,'' Girardi said. "I think he's got a pretty good shot.''

Prior, who signed a minor-league deal with an opt-out clause he can invoke sometime this summer if he is not added to the roster, said he has no intention of using it. "I want to be here,'' he said. "I’m still a part of this organization and I truly want to help this ballclub win. And I think I can do that.'