Miguel Rojas summed up in three words how the Marlins feel about having Martin Prado back.
“Welcome back, 'Capitan!'” Rojas shouted in the Marlins' clubhouse shortly after they beat the Colorado Rockies 4-1 on Saturday night.
Prado made a major impact in the win in what was only his second game back from the disabled list after a lengthy rehab from the roughest injury patch of his career.
After going 0 for 4 on Friday, Prado drove in two runs, posted two hits and made multiple key plays on defense.
It was an encouraging sign for Prado, who was played only 37 games last season while dealing with hamstring and knee injuries. Prado missed the first 24 games of this year while rehabbing from the aftermath of knee surgery last fall.
“To make plays that contribute to win a game is huge for me,” Prado said.
Prado drove in the Marlins’ first run of the game in the first inning on a fielder’s choice. On that play, Prado beat out a relay throw to prevent the Rockies from turning a double play that would have ended the inning and cost the Marlins a precious run.
“Sometimes baseball will test you right away,” Prado said. “Just to be able to beat out that double play was a really, really good accomplishment for me.”
Prado later doubled in the third inning to drive in a second run, and singled in the eighth inning.
“That’s the way Martin wanted to come back and be ready to play and that’s how we wanted to make sure he was ready moving forward,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Prado said he lost some weight while working on maintaining his strength and endurance in the offseason, which has helped his mobility in the field.
On Saturday, Prado made three excellent fielding plays early in the game.
In the second inning Prado snared a line drive by Chris Iannetta hit at 102 mph according to MLB’s Statcast tracking system. Prado then charged a ball to his left and fired perfectly to first to retire Gerardo Parra on the ensuing at-bat.
Prado saved a run in the third inning when he made a barehanded grab and delivered a perfect throw to first on a slow roller hit by Ian Desmond. The Rockies had a runner at third that would have tied the game had Desmond beat the throw.
“Sometimes when you’re not 100 percent and you have plays like that you kind of always think, ‘Oh, my knee,’” Prado said. “Thank God, I just reacted to every single play and just showed that I’m building my confidence back up.”
Mattingly said he’d likely give Prado the day off on Sunday with the early start with the intention of putting him back in the starting lineup Monday to begin the team’s three-game series against the Phillies.
“Just watching that game, it’s great to have him back,” Mattingly said. “He got tested a lot today.”
Getting Prado back as well as starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, and likely Dan Straily returning Monday with others such as shortstop JT Riddle progressing in their rehabs from injury, should benefit the Marlins with a more experienced group on the active roster.
The Marlins won for the third time in four games following a 5-17 beginning to the season, and their rotation pitchers recorded their sixth consecutive start allowing two runs or fewer. Over that span, the rotation has a 1.57 ERA and has struck out 39 batters while walking only nine.
“I saw Chen just going after it every day, same with Straily,” Prado said. “They are willing to do everything they can to be here and belong here. Having those guys means more experience and they can help the young kids to develop in a short term.”