Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins veteran Martin Prado’s latest accomplishment: 100 career home runs

Martin Prado had his doubts. It had been more than five months, more than 200 plate appearances, since the Miami Marlins’ veteran infielder had hit a home run.

What if No. 100 was never meant to be?

Well, in the third inning of Sunday’s season finale — almost assuredly his final game with the Marlins and quite possibly his last in the major leagues — Prado checked off the milestone.

He took a 93.5 mph fastball from Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Edgar Garcia and sent it 380 feet over the left-field wall at Citizens Bank Park.

The final run of the Marlins’ 4-3 win over the Phillies gave Prado triple-digit home runs over his 14-year career.

He is the 25th player born in Venezuela to hit 100 home runs at the MLB level.

“I don’t know how that happened,” Prado said. “It took so long. ... I was just kind of losing faith, thinking ‘Man, I’m swinging too hard. I’m overdoing stuff.’ But at the end of the day, this time is the time to do it. It’s unbelievable how baseball can surprise you.”

Teammate Miguel Rojas, who served as the Marlins’ player-manager for Sunday’s season finale, pulled Prado from the game in the ninth. His teammates gave him a standing ovation from the dugout as he left the field.

But is this the end of Prado in Major League Baseball with the infielder slated to enter free agency this offseason?

“If something’s out there, I’ll consider it,” Prado said. “But now that I have a family involved, any decision in the future is going to take my wife and my kids and now we have a baby on the way. So there’s a little more. There’s another decision to make, but as a group, as a family.”

Either way, Sunday served as the latest highlight for the 14-year MLB veteran who has been limited over the past three seasons as injuries took their toll.

He recorded his 1,500th career hit and his 600th RBI during the Marlins’ two-game road trip against the Cleveland Indians in April — the same series in which he hit his 99th career home run.

Prado, who has been with the Marlins since 2015 after spending the bulk of his career with the Atlanta Braves (2006-2012) before stops with the Diamondbacks (2013-2014) and New York Yankees (2015), played in just 91 games over the 2017 and 2018 seasons while dealing with injuries to both hamstrings, a left quad strain, a right abdominal strain and a right knee strain. He spent a little more than a month on the injured list this season from June 14 to July 17 with a right hamstring strain and has primarily started either at first or third base against left-handed pitchers.

“Martin’s a great dude,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s been beat up the last three years from the standpoint of injuries, which has been unfortunate. It’s taken a little bit of a toll on him. He’s a guy that’s pretty proud. He feels like he’s letting the organization down when he’s hurt. I think obviously you see the reaction we get from our bench when he hits that homer. Everybody’s so happy for him. He’s always trying to help these guys.”

Even with his limited action on the field, Prado has played a valuable role in the Marlins’ clubhouse for a youthful roster experiencing another wave of growing pains during the second season of the franchise’s latest rebuild.

He commands respect from younger teammates and veterans alike. In turn, he provides as much support through the expected struggles as the Marlins fought through a 100-plus-loss season.

“We don’t want to show them that we’re frustrated. We’re showing no sign of quitting. No sign of ‘this is over,’” Prado said. “I’m hoping that it’s translating and we’re sending that message and they can just ... digest that information so in the future they can handle this kind of situation.”

They showed their support back on Aug. 10, when he hit a 10th-inning, walk-off sacrifice fly to lead the Marlins to a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves. Teammates raced out of the dugout to mob him at home plate after Harold Ramirez scored from third, dousing him with water and Gatorade.

“To be able to have that reception back is cool for me,” Prado said at the time. “It means that they respect what I do for them.”

Prado received a similar celebration on Sunday.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I don’t know if this is going to be his last game as a Miami Marlin, but at the same time I want to say thank you to him,” Rojas said. “Not just for my part, but from everyone from the minor leagues up for these last five years with Martin in the organization. He helped me personally to become the player that I am right now. Guys like him are always going to go a long way in this game. ... In everyone’s mind, Martin is always going to be a pretty special part of this organization. The captain for a couple years. I wish him nothing but the best for the rest of his career.”

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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.