Martin Prado often walks around the Marlins clubhouse wearing a white headband.
When Miguel Rojas does the same thing, if one didn’t know better, you could almost mistake for Prado’s younger brother.
For Rojas, a 28-year-old utility infielder entering his fourth season in the majors, the climb to the bigs has been long, and his quest to be an everyday starter is still ongoing.
But Prado has been a mentor and become a role model for Rojas since each joined the Marlins in 2014. Both are from Venezuela, each having been born in cities separated by a little more than an hour’s drive.
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“His dedication and willingness to keep an open mind is what’s helped him improve,” Prado said. “This is a sport where you have to sacrifice a lot. The physical part is important to be ready for such a long season, but he’s always assimilated information well and put that into practice.”
Although not a starter during his brief career, Rojas is being utilized more and more by the Marlins than most typical bench players.
“We know we can put [Rojas] anywhere on the field pretty much, on the infield,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who also coached Rojas in 2014 with the Dodgers. “He’s a premier defender at all positions on the infield. And then offensively this year he’s just been steadier. He did a lot of work, he and Martin together in the offseason. You can see it’s been paying off for him.”
Rojas filled in capably as a starter at both shortstop and third base while Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria each spent time on the disabled list recently.
Rojas, who is 15 pounds lighter this season at 195, is hitting .268 in 41 at-bats, but went .324 with a .400 on-base percentage as a starter just before Hechavarria’s return.
Rojas, an often jovial member of the Marlins’ clubhouse, is someone many, including his former Dodgers-turned-Marlins, are happy to see developing into a complete player.
“When we first got him, this guy could really catch the baseball but couldn’t hit [anything] honestly,” Marlins baserunning coach Lorenzo Bundy said. “He won us probably five or six games just with his glove [in L.A.]. Now you see him in the game at the plate, and he’s a threat. He’s not a one-dimensional player anymore.”
Rojas, a career .240 hitter with three home runs, spent the offseason working on his mechanics at the plate. Rojas played in the Venezuelan winter league with Los Tiburones of La Guaira and also trained in Miami with hitting instructor Eduardo Sosa, who has also worked with several prominent major-leaguers, including Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Ender Inciarte.
Rojas saw the results in the spring while also working with Marlins’ hitting coach Frank Menechino.
“I’m not saying my hitting was terrible, but I know I had some holes in my swing,” Rojas said.
Rojas doesn’t figure to ever be a power hitter, but could eventually become a consistent run-producer, also much like Prado.
“Since we came over here [to Miami], his bat is much different,” said Marlins’ bench coach Tim Wallach, who also coached Rojas along with Mattingly and Bundy in L.A. “It’s hard because he’s never really had the consistent at-bats you need to really be the kind of hitter.”
Rojas spent eight years climbing his way up the ladder playing in Venezuelan and Dominican leagues and later the minors before making his debut with the Dodgers at 25 years old.
Whether Rojas can become a consistent starter remains to be seen, although he appears to be on the right path and following an excellent example.
“I just try to be ready to play every day,” Rojas said. “That’s something I learned from [Prado]. It’s no secret he is well-respected and well-liked around baseball and the leader of our clubhouse. I hope I can carry myself the same way in my career and achieve that kind of respect one day.”
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-0, 3.94 ERA) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (0-2, 7.20), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Edinson Volquez (0-2, 4.82) vs. Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (2-0, 4.50), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.