Prado staying upbeat, confident that bat will come around to usual level; D-backs could use it.
By JACK MAGRUDERFS Arizona
PHOENIX --Martin Prado is at ease, at home, in the Diamondbacks' clubhouse. He greets his teammates with a handshake and a hug every day. On Wednesday morning, he traded hand slaps with Cody Ross' young son. Miguel Montero made it a point to show Prado the wrist decal that his son Angel had applied that morning, a tradeoff for taking his medicine.
Prado rolled his shoulders to the music while pulling on his socks, at peace with his surroundings while at the same time preparing for the new opportunity that each day presents.
Prado has not brought his relatively slow start at the plate to the workplace every day, a fact not lost on his teammates or his manager.
"You look beyond the numbers as well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's been great. I think he has pressed a little bit, and maybe not as been consistent with his hitting as he was last year, but I think he'll come around with more consistency.
"It's a big change. Different organization. Different division. It takes a little time to get adjusted. I've moved him around a lot. He's gone through a lot. He's held up to a lot. I think if you look at him mentally and look at his body language, he's been great. I think a lot of guys would have cracked."
The D-backs did not expect Prado to replace Justin Upton in kind when they obtained him in in a seven-player trade with the Braves in January, but they were hoping he would be Prado.
Inasmuch as the D-backs have been in first place alone or tied for first in the NL West since May 18, they have not been particularly adversely affected by Prado's slow start -- a .242 batting average, 13 doubles and 20 RBIs while hitting only .169 with runners in scoring position, more than 100 percentage points below his career average.
At the same time, the D-backs' recent offensive struggles suggest that this would be a good time for a return to form.
Prado had a .295 batting average and a .435 slugging percentage in seven seasons in Atlanta, and he and came into his own as a regular the last four years by averaging 36.5 doubles and 61.5 RBIs a year while multi-tasking in the field, playing second base, third base and left field.
The transition to Arizona was more difficult than Prado expected, and he said it took him a good month to get his head around the trade, a move that was compounded by the fact that Upton, a two-time All-Star, was on the other side of the deal.
"The main guy was Justin, the main guy was me. They (fans) only see the two main guys," Prado said. "I’m not going to be able to do what Justin does. He brings something different to the table that is good for the team. I am not going to compare myself. Maybe I’m not hitting well, but what else do I bring to the table.
"I was trying to be somebody else to make the (D-backs) understand that I could help to win games, but things weren’t going the way I wanted. Now I'm just trying to be myself, the way I was with the Braves, and not change anything. People are panicking about my hitting. I’m not. I know what I can do. I’ve been doing it for so long. It's a long season. By the end of the season, we'll figure it out."
The Braves knew what they had. On the day of the trade, Chipper Jones called Prado to say how much he respected Prado and what he had done for the organization. Manager Fredi Gonzalez echoed a similar sentiment.
"I think Prado will be fine," Gonzalez said. "He’s a strong-willed guy. He was that way when he was hitting .360. He’d hit .360 and want to hit .390. He works hard. He has the same likable characteristics that Justin has. I’m sure his teammates loved him the first two days they saw him."
Prado has shown signs of coming out of it. His two-run home run into the left-field seats tied Tuesday's game at 2 in the fourth inning, and Paul Goldschmidt won it with his walkoff home run in the ninth. It was Prado's first home run in seven weeks; he hit his fourth on April 29.
"I'm starting to get that feeling, that balance at home plate. That's all we control, just having good at-bats. That's the way you get out of slumps sometimes, having good at-bats. Take the at-bat all the way to 3-2 if you can. Put a good swing on it," Prado said.
History would suggest that is only the beginning.
"He needs to relax a little more and not put pressure on himself," Montero said. "It’s easy to say. Like people tell me not to swing hard. It’s easy to say. It’s hard to get it done.
"But I know he is going to be fine. He just needs to get a little streak going, a couple of bloopers here or there, and then things are going to change. I’m not worried about him. I know what he is capable of doing, and I know he is going to do it."