Cubs unsure how much time Prior might miss

CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Mark Prior left Friday's game in the
fourth inning after being hit in the right elbow by a line drive
hit by Colorado's Brad Hawpe.

X-rays on Prior's elbow were negative, Cubs trainer Mark O'Neal
said, but ESPN learned later Friday an MRI revealed a "slight" fracture. The Cubs will continue to evaluate Prior's injury to determine how much time he will miss.

Two Cubs sources confirmed the diagnosis that Prior had suffered a "hairline fracture" or a crack in the elbow to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick late Friday night.

There was so much swelling in Prior's elbow after he was struck by Hawpe's liner, the Cubs assumed he was going to miss a minimum of two starts regardless of what the tests showed, sources told Crasnick. So a trip to the disabled list is a virtual certainty.

With the score tied 1-all, Hawpe led off the fourth and hit
Prior's first pitch back up the middle. After striking Prior, the
ball deflected to third baseman Aramis Ramirez who caught it for
the first out of the inning.

Prior collapsed and rolled in pain on the mound. He was helped
off the field by the Cubs training staff. The right-hander was
replaced by reliever Todd Wellemeyer.

O'Neal didn't want to speculate on the severity of the injury,
or how much time the ace might miss.

"That's a tough question," O'Neal said. "It's really going to
be determined on how sore he is when he comes in and how much
inflammation he has. We just have to wait until he comes in
tomorrow [Saturday]. There's no way we can tell right now how long this is
going to be."

Prior allowed one run on two hits and three walks in 3 1/3
innings before leaving. He is 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA this year after
beginning the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.