Prior warning

Mark Prior is the real deal. I didn’t get to see him pitch because I was in class, but the numbers tell the story. Here’s what the scouts had to say about Prior’s performance Wednesday night.

Most surprising of all, the Cubs gave Prior some run support. Was that just a favor to the rookie, or will it be a sign of things to come? So obviously Prior has earned a spot in the starting rotation, though with Baylor you never can tell. The Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein reports that Jason Bere has an edge over Juan Cruz for the last spot because Cruz has complained of soreness in his arm.

If Cruz is healthy, I think it would be a shame if he were sent to the bullpen instead of Bere. Bere, as Greenstein points out, has given up more runs this year than any other starter with the exception of Mike Hampton, the ace for a team whose home stadium is so homer happy they’re allowed to store the balls in a humidor hours before game time.

Indeed, the Tuesday doubleheader said all that needed to be said about who deserves a spot in the rotation. Bere started the first game and gave up six runs in five innings, losing the game and upping his ERA to 6.80. Cruz, meanwhile, gave up only two earned runs in six innings.

The thing that may keep Bere in the starting lineup is that he will resist the bullpen fiercely. This Cruz’ first full year and he doesn’t have much say. Bere is getting paid $3.4 million this season and has only pitched eight games in relief his entire career. He is much less likely to even be effective coming out of the bullpen. Cruz deserves his starting spot, but probably won’t get it.

Hopefully, Bere will be dealt to some team desperate for pitching before the trading deadline, and Cruz can take back his spot as a key component of a rotation made up of fellow youngsters Wood and Prior. Here’s Phil Rogers on the Cubs’ youth movement.