Martin Prado’s participation in the World Baseball Classic was cut short late Wednesday night.
Prado sustained a right hamstring injury in the sixth inning of Venezuela’s 4-2 second-round loss to the United States at Petco Park in San Diego.
Prado, one of the Marlins’ most valuable players on and off the field, pulled up while trying to run out a grounder in the infield. Prado was visibly limping as he exited to the dugout and did not return.
The Miami Herald confirmed reports that Prado was returning to Marlins camp in Jupiter on Thursday with what was deemed a “mild” hamstring injury and would undergo further tests upon his return.
Prado, 33, is entering his third season with the Marlins and signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension in the offseason.
His injury could leave the Marlins without one of the key cogs in their lineup for Opening Day, which is April 3 in Washington.
Prado hit .305 with eight home runs and 75 RBI last season and is one of the most respected players in baseball.
Prado started 146 games at third last season, appearing in 150, and committed nine errors, which was tied for the fewest among National League third basemen. His .972 fielding percentage ranked third among the same group.
This past Saturday during Venezuela’s first-round win over Italy in Jalisco, Mexico, Prado seemed to escape potential injury while making a spectacular diving catch during which he fell into the front row on the third base side.
Prado was having a solid WBC tournament offensively as well, which played a key role in Venezuela advancing to the second round.
In that same game last Saturday, Prado recorded the first five-hit game in WBC history.
Should Prado be forced to miss an extended amount of time, the Marlins would likely turn to infielders Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas to fill in.
Dietrich filled in capably at second base for a good portion of last season during Dee Gordon’s 80-game suspension and can also play both corner infield positions. He is also the better hitting option with 31 home runs and 107 RBI in four seasons as opposed to Rojas’ three career homers and 40 RBI.
Rojas, who can play first, second, third base and shortstop, would likely see more action at all four spots depending on the situation.
Prado’s immediate absence would open opportunities for other young infielders in camp to get more reps such as Marlins’ No. 3-ranked prospect Brian Anderson, J.T. Riddle and Matt Juengel.
It could also present an opportunity for Tyler Moore, who has had a solid spring as a nonroster invitee.
Moore, 30, who appeared in 277 games for the Nationals from 2012 to 2015, has the most home runs of any Marlin so far this spring with three and has hit 8 for 27 while appearing in 14 games. Moore has an out clause, where he can become a free agent if he is not on the roster by a certain date.
Friday: Marlins RHP Scott Copeland vs. Nationals TBA, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
Saturday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily vs. Tigers TBA, 1:05 p.m., Lakeland.