Stephen Pryor remains on the fast track to the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound right-handed pitcher drafted in June 2010 was invited to the team's big-league training camp and leaves today from his family's Ringgold home for Peoria, Ariz.
The former Cleveland State starter and Tennessee Tech closer from Mount Juliet pitched the last half of the 2010 season for the Jackson Generals in the Class AA Southern League and went 2-1 with six saves, striking out 27 batters in 22 2/3 innings and allowing only nine hits and three earned runs.
Pryor walked seven opponents and hit one with a pitch in his Double-A stint after allowing 26 walks with two hit batters in 27 innings with the High Desert Mavericks. He had 34 strikeouts and a 1-0 record with four saves in the high-A Cal League.
With Jackson he unveiled a cutter as his "out pitch" to go with a fastball that reached 99 mph and regularly is in the 94-97 range.
"I started working on the cutter in spring training with a few pitching coaches, but I didn't really get it down," the 22-year-old Pryor said Monday. "At High Desert I kept working on it and did maybe three bullpens [sessions] with it, but when I got to Double-A I really wanted to use it. I showed it to a pitching coach in the bullpen, and he said, 'Use it.'
"I got to where I sometimes used it three or four times in a row in Venezuela [in October and November]. I get good movement out of it, and it's hard like my fastball."
His six-plus weeks in the Venezuelan league were good, he said, for adjusting to disciplined hitters.
"It went pretty well," Pryor said. "I walked a little more than I wanted to, but a lot of hitters at that level have big-league time or are top prospects, and they have a better command of the strike zone. They take more pitches; they don't fish as much.
"I also learned that I can throw my pitches and be successful -- and not go away from my game plan."
Pryor acknowledged that he "was hoping" for a big-league camp invitation but knew the business side of the game meant that players on the 40-man squad got invited first and it was relatively rare for someone with less than two years in the pros.
"I'm definitely excited by the opportunity," he said. "I've had a lot of good pitching coaches and I've talked to some of them in the offseason. They told me to be myself and don't try to do too much.
"You can only control what you do. You can't control what others expect out of you. So I try to do what I do 100 percent and let God take it from there."
His Jackson and Venezuelan pitching coaches, Lance Painter and Jamie Navarro, will be working in the big-league camp, as will Mariners minor league pitching coordinator Rich Waits.
Pryor's wife, Christian, has a scheduled C-section delivery of their second daughter set for March 2, and Stephen plans to get back the night before and return to Arizona on March 5.
From there he could get sent back to Jackson, Tenn., to start the season or he could begin in Triple-A in Tacoma, Wash. Even Seattle is possible, but a short distance down Puget Sound is more likely.