More comfortable Prado looks to start on right foot in 2014
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With Martin Prado at the plate in the third inning Tuesday in Peoria, Paul Goldschmidt took off from first base to second. Prado knocked a single right through the hole left by the covering second baseman, allowing Goldschmidt to take third base as well.
It appeared to be the perfect hit and run, putting Goldschmidt in position to score one batter later.
"It looked like a hit and run, but it wasn’t," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson admitted Wednesday. "I’d like to tell you it was. You don’t really hit and run 2-0 with a (No. 4) hitter."
Prado, as Gibson explained, had simply seen Goldschmidt stealing, the second baseman covering up the middle and a ball out over the plate.
"He utilized that," Gibson said. "That’s how good he is."
The hit was just a part of what’s been a hot start to spring training for Prado, who finds himself more comfortable this year after a trying start to the 2013 season.
"I felt a little weird last year," Prado said. "It was a different feeling for me, but everything is in the past and I learned from that experience. I feel like I’m more confident right now, and I feel like I don’t have to prove anything because everybody knows me. It’s just a different feeling right now."
Through the "first half" of last season — 91 games — Prado batted .253 with 34 RBIs and a .303 on-base percentage. It wasn’t the kind of production the D-backs expected from their principal return in the Justin Upton trade, nor was it what Prado expected of himself.
Gibson maintained throughout the year Prado seemed to be putting extra pressure on himself to perform for his new team. Prado, meanwhile, insists that wasn’t the case; he simply hit a rough patch and had to work through it.
Prado worked through it all right, putting together a monster second half. After the all-star break, Prado batted .324 with a .374 on-base percentage and 48 RBI, tied with Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman for third most in the NL after the break.
Now, Prado is off to a strong start a week into Cactus League play. Through five games, Prado is batting .667 (10 for 15) with three doubles and three RBIs. Prado downplays the notion of a hot start, saying it’s too early to talk about hitting or numbers.
"I’m just trying to have a good approach and trying to stay with that approach all the way to the season," Prado said.
Early or not, Prado appears more comfortable this spring. He’s not adjusting to a new clubhouse and new teammates. He didn’t move to a new state after being traded from the only organization he’d known. And he’s not making a fulltime switch to a new position, as he did when coming to the D-backs last season.
Spring training itself has been more normal this season, too. Last year, Prado was part of the D-backs contingent participating in the in the World Baseball Classic. The tournament required Prado, after reporting to camp in Scottsdale, to travel with Team Venezuela to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then back to Arizona.
Prado was happy and proud to play for Venezuela but admits the tournament made preparing for the season more difficult.
"I don’t call that like a distraction, but yeah, now I’m more focused on what I need to do for the season and how I can get better and fit in and help the team win," Prado said.
In discussing Prado’s hot start, Gibson credits Prado’s work ethic and routine.
"Just the way he goes about it every day and the way he sticks to it, he never sloughs off," Gibson said. "It’s probably unmatched in the way he can do things and the way he can execute them."
Prado said much of his work this spring has been about finding the right feeling at the plate. He wants to lay down a solid base leading up to the season and work on his at-bat plan.
The D-backs and Prado hope he can parlay a greater comfort level and strong spring into results early in the season but won’t read too much into how he fares the rest of way through Cactus League play. More important is his mentality when Opening Day arrives.
"I can remember spring trainings where I was raking in spring training and started the seasons slow, and I can remember spring trainings where I was lost in spring training and I started out raking," Gibson said. "There’s really no rhyme nor reason, but you do want to have your mind in a good spot when you head into the season."