Martin Prado should lead the majors in the number of game-used souvenir baseballs thrown to children in the stands over the course of the season.
Whether he ends up leading the league in batting remains to be seen.
The Marlins’ stoic third baseman took a .386 average into Friday night’s game against Washington. Only the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy at .409 boasted a higher figure.
Just don’t expect Prado, a career .293 hitter, to provide an explanation for his sizzling start.
“I’ve been telling everybody I don’t like talking about hitting because hitting is numbers,” Prado said. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
Prado is about as humble as they come. There’s probably no Marlin who commands the respect that he does within his own clubhouse. Prado’s leadership qualities are off the charts.
“He’s always one of those guys, as a manager, that you love,” his manager, Don Mattingly, said. “It’s nice to have those veterans that have been around to steady things. They’re going to be more of an influence than coaches. They solidify your club.”
His teammates think so highly of Prado that at the conclusion of every inning, whenever the Marlins are in the field, whoever records the last putout gets the ball to him. Prado then tosses the ball to a child he spots in the stands.
“I just told them I like to give baseballs to little kids,” Prado said of the origin of the ritual. “Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes guys just hold the ball. They just forget, and it’s not a big deal.”
Prado, 32, is in the final season of his contract. He’ll be eligible for free agency after the season, and there’s no telling where he’ll end up. He doesn’t even like to discuss his future and whether he’ll re-sign with the Marlins or go elsewhere.
Nor does he like to contemplate what might happen at the July trade deadline if the Marlins slip in the standings and fall out of contention. His name is frequently mentioned in trade rumors.
“I don’t think about that,” Prado said. “I’ve been in that position before, and it’s not fun knowing you could get moved.”
If the Marlins stay in contention, though, it’s a safe bet that Prado will remain until the end of the season.
“The most important thing is we are in a better position this year as a team,” Prado said. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters for the fans and the Marlins organization, knowing that we progressed as a team and not just individually.”
What most pleases Prado is that the Marlins’ recent success hasn’t hinged around a few players. Contributions have come from many.
“It’s fun when it’s not only one hero every night,” he said. “Everybody’s contributing to be where we’re at. I just hope we can keep it rolling.”
▪ The Marlins are expected to call up Kendry Flores from Triple A New Orleans to start the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Flores has gone 1-1 with a 2.59 ERA in six starts for the Zephyrs.
The Marlins could have opted for Jarred Cosart to pitch the nightcap. But they first want to see if Cosart, who started the season in their rotation, can develop some consistency.
Justin Nicolino will pitch the first game of the split doubleheader.
▪ Saturday (first game): Marlins LHP Nicolino (2-0, 2.79 ERA) at Washington Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-0, 2.76), 1:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
▪ Saturday (second game): Marlins RHP Flores (no record) at Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.03), 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (4-2, 3.54) at Nationals RHP Joe Ross (3-2, 2.29), 1:35 p.m., Nationals Park.