It hasn't been that long ago when Mark Prior was the young phenom coming up through the system, seemingly ready to face major league hitters from the day he was drafted.
Things are different now for Prior — two shoulder surgeries and more than four years removed from his last big-league appearance.
Sunday, after about a month of pitching for the independent Orange County Flyers (Calif.) of the Golden Baseball League, Prior threw a baseball for an affiliated team for the first time since 2006.
He threw a scoreless inning, walked one and allowed a hit while striking out two in an imperfect appearance. But it was a big step for a right-hander the Chicago Cubs drafted No. 2 overall in 2001.
Sunday at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, Prior still looked like the pitcher who took baseball by storm in 2002 and 2003.
He still wears his socks exposed to just below the knee. His delivery looks just like it did when Prior was starting for the Cubs in the 2003 National League Championship Series after winning 18 games.
But his outlook is much different.
Then, Prior wanted to be a dominant starter in the majors.
Now, he just wants another chance.
"I'm at the point now where I take everything day by day," Prior said. "You say that early in your career, and you don't really mean it.
"Now, every day's different; just look at what's happened for me the last three or four days."
Prior had pitched well for Orange County.
"My goal when I signed on with the Flyers was basically to go out and pitch and show teams that I'm pitching and I'm healthy so I could get an opportunity next year," Prior said. "I kind of knew it was a long-shot to get picked up, especially this time of year."
But Thursday, as the Flyers were in Hawaii, Prior's agent called with an opportunity to finish the season in the Oklahoma City bullpen.
"Sure," Prior said. "It'll take me awhile to get there but of course."
For Prior, it's a chance to prove his health and ability against better hitters than he was facing in independent ball. For the Texas Rangers, it's a chance to get an up-close view of Prior before they decide whether to take him on as a longer-term project.
Prior threw 28 pitches Sunday vs. Omaha, with his fastball sitting at 90-91 mph most of the time. He hit 92 mph once.
That velocity is down from the mid-90s from his time with the Cubs, although Prior isn't too concerned about his velocity.
"I'd get up to 95 or 96, but I usually pitched between 92-93," said Prior, who had 42 wins and 757 strikeouts while with the Cubs. "If I needed to go back and get something, I'd go get it. I don't have that anymore, but for the most part everything's the same as far as the pitches that I throw and the way that I use them.
"That hasn't changed. Now, will that change? I don't know yet. Part of the exercise pitching for the Flyers was, 'What kind of pitcher am I?' Do I still have a relatively power arm, or am I a power pitcher or do I need to start refining and moving the ball a little more and changing speeds?"
Those answers will come with time.
For now, Prior is just enjoying his time back in baseball.
"It's good to be back," Prior said. "I know it's short-lived, but it'll be a good experience."