Miami Marlins

How Martin Prado is embracing his return to the Marlins’ starting lineup

Martin Prado talks about getting his rhythm back

Marlins third baseman Martin Prado talks about getting his rhythm back at the plate since returning from injury.
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Marlins third baseman Martin Prado talks about getting his rhythm back at the plate since returning from injury.

Martin Prado knew the Miami Marlins were going to take precautions early in the season. How could they not with the way the last two seasons unfolded? He’s 35 years old and played in just 91 games over that span due to an assortment of injuries.

The plan for 2019 was to ease him in, limit his time in the field early and make sure they get the most out of one of their veteran players.

“It’s a different story now,” Prado said. “You get older and your body tells you something else even though your mind is always ready to play every day.”

Fast forward three weeks into the season. Prado is one of the Marlins’ most consistent players at the plate. While the sample size is small at just 43 at-bats, Prado leads the team with a .326 batting average and has three doubles, three RBI and four runs as well.

He’s getting more playing time now as a result. How could he not, considering the Marlins’ collective offensive woes to start the season? Manager Don Mattingly has Prado in the lineup for the fifth time in six games as the Marlins begin a two-game set against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Tuesday.

“Martin’s a baseball player,” Mattingly said. “You feel comfortable with him at either spot, first or third. You know you’re getting a quality at-bat and you’re getting a guy who understands the game. ... We’re comfortable — happy, really — that we’re going to be able to put him on the field more often and keep him consistently in the lineup.”

Prado had been waiting for this time to come. He felt ready to get back in the field on a regular basis, but was waiting for Mattingly and the coaching staff to get on board.

Before they got to this point, though, Prado had to adapt to coming off the bench, something he didn’t have to do much during the first 14 years of his MLB career.

His pregame routine has changed, but his production has not. Prado has safely reached base in 12 of the 16 games he has played in this season. He is 3 for 4 with a pair of walks and no strikeouts as a pinch-hitter. He has safely reached base in his last five pinch-hit appearances, which ties the Marlins’ franchise record. He has only struck out five times this year.

“It’s easier for older guys that know their swings and have a pretty good feel for hitting,” Mattingly said of the adjustment players face as they transition from everyday starters to a bench role. “It’s a lot tougher for a younger guy who doesn’t have a ton of at-bats. Martin has had a lot of at-bats in his career. He’s faced a lot of different styles of guys, so when he gets a matchup, no matter who it is, he has some type of game plan when he walks up there and has a really good feel for his swing.”

Prado playing in the field gives the Marlins additional flexibility with their lineup. He can platoon with Neil Walker at first. When he plays at third, Brian Anderson can move to right field and take hold of a position where the Marlins have yet to have continuity.

How long will Prado continue to get regular appearances in the field? That’s up to him. If Prado remains healthy, he’ll keep getting opportunities.

“[Mattingly] just told me to be honest with him,” Prado said. “If I feel like I’m not 100 percent or if I feel like something is starting up, just let him know and he’ll understand that.

“Hopefully I feel good enough [throughout the season] that I don’t have to go up to him and tell him I can’t play.”

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.