Martin Prado’s first hit this spring, a single in the second inning of Thursday’s 12-6 win over the Houston Astros, felt sweet. His second hit two innings later was another sign.
“I’ve gotten into a rhythm,” said Prado, who opened spring 0 for 14 before those two hits.
Getting into a rhythm has been tough lately for the 35-year-old and 13-year MLB veteran. Prado has played in just 91 games during the past two seasons after dealing with an assortment of injuries. The Marlins eased him back into full-time work this spring, having him spend the first week of spring training on the back fields in simulated games.
But now, less than two weeks before the March 28 season opener against the Colorado Rockies, Prado said he is starting to feel like himself again.
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“I’m getting into a routine where I feel like I’m getting ready for games and situations,” Prado said.
And if Prado, one of a handful of veterans who has been on the Marlins roster for at least four seasons and is heading into the final season of a three-year, $40 million contract, is indeed ready for Opening Day, it will add yet another wrinkle for manager Don Mattingly to shape out over the next two weeks.
Of 25 available roster spots, 13 are going to pitching — five starters, eight relievers.
The Marlins will have two catchers, some combination of Jorge Alfaro, Bryan Holaday and Chad Wallach.
Neil Walker (first base), Starlin Castro (second), Miguel Rojas (shortstop), J.T. Riddle (shortstop) and Brian Anderson are locks in the infield.
With Lewis Brinson, Curtis Granderson and Peter O’Brien expected to be the core of the starting outfield at least to start the year, that brings the total to 23.
The Marlins will need a fourth outfielder, which will likely go to one of Garrett Cooper (who can play first and corner outfield), Austin Dean or Rosell Herrera (who can play infield and outfield).
That leaves Prado and whoever doesn’t get that fourth outfielder position as the main players vying for the final spot. Prado would primarily back up Walker at first base and possibly get time at other spots in the infield on players’ off days.
The key for Prado will be his health and if he’s physically ready to handle the full season from the start.
But while Prado continues to get into his rhythm, Mattingly also has the rest of his roster to worry about, too. Finding that balance in the home stretch of spring training is key.
“Everybody has to get ready,” Mattingly said.
Mattlingly said Prado will continue to get regular at-bats in live games during the final week and a half of Grapefruit League games. When he’s not in a lineup, Prado will get work on the back fields.
That’s fine with Prado, who said he doesn’t need the glitz and glamor of playing in front of a live crowd at this point in his career to get ready for a season.
Give him steady chances to step into the batter’s box, and he will make the most of it.
“It’s just the timing,” Prado said. “You can work so much on mechanics and stuff like that. But, when you go up there, you’re going to forget about the mechanics and just be on time and be ready to hit.”