Prado’s even-keel approach paying off for D-backs

PHOENIX — You know what the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse looks like when Martin Prado is going well? He greets teammates with a smile and a handshake when he arrives. He turns the music on. He dances. He is the happiest guy in the clubhouse.

You know what the clubhouse looks like when he is scuffling? See above.

“He’s the same guy, which is a tough thing to be, and he does a great job of it,” said Eric Hinske, who spent three years with Prado in Atlanta before both joined the D-backs this offseason.

“He’s a pro.”

The pro had his seventh career four-hit game Sunday, his first with his new team, to help Patrick Corbin improve to 8-0 with a 6-5 victory over the Padres at Chase Field, another sign that Prado is beginning to find a comfort level in the desert.

He had a three-hit game Saturday and was 8 for 12 with four doubles, two runs and two RBIs in the series to help the D-backs (28-22) remain in a first-place tie with the Giants in the NL West entering a day/night doubleheader against the Rangers on Monday.

Prado gave the D-backs the insurance run they needed Sunday with an RBI double to the fence in right-center field in the seventh inning for a 6-4 lead, a ball on which Jason Kubel scored from first. Prado’s double in the seventh inning Friday drove in the tying in a five-run inning, keying a 5-2 victory.

Those are the sorts of things the D-backs believed they would get when they acquired Prado, a career .295 hitter, as the principal piece in the Justin Upton trade in January. Not as many home runs, no, but a lot of timely hits and a sublime understanding of his role on the team.

Prado gained 25 percentage points on his batting average — which climbed to .257 — over the weekend, and he topped the series off with a diving grab and throw from the hole between first and second to take a hit away from Yonder Alonso for the second out of Heath Bell’s 1-2-3 ninth inning, his eighth save.

If you were concerned about Prado, his teammates were not, understanding the guy he is. Prado signed with the Braves at age 16 and gave everything he had to the organization for 12 years. It was not easy as it might seem to be sent elsewhere. Added to that were the unspoken expectations, the invisible print in the four-year, $40 million contract extension Prado signed shortly after joining the D-backs.

Hinske has played for seven organizations, but he put Prado’s change in perspective by saying, “I’ve never gone to a team with a four-year, $40 million deal. I’m sure there is more of an adjustment period with that.”

At the same time, “He doesn’t know any other way than just to work. I think he is starting to get comfortable. He’s finding his swing,” Hinske added.

Prado was hitting .217 entering May but is hitting .310 since. The next step is to do it with runners in scoring position, where he is 5 for 44 this year, but his resume suggests that, too, will turn. He is a career .274 hitter with runners in scoring position.

He has kept the faith (and the work ethic) all along while spending time with hitting coach Don Baylor. A few weeks ago, manager Kirk Gibson told Prado to take fewer swings in the batting cage during his pregame routine. Prado did … for about a day.

“He’s a workaholic. He loves it,” Gibson said.

“Through the whole thing, he has been one of the greatest guys you could ask for as a teammate. All through the clubhouse. On the bus. In the plane. In the dugout. On the field. He just has a great attitude. He doesn’t pout about anything. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He only thinks about the team all the team. That’s a great example for us all.”

It is just Prado being Prado.

“I wasn’t frustrated. I knew the hitting was going to come along. When you have confidence and you know what you can do … I don’t make excuses about my performance. What I can control is lifting weights, hitting a little bit more, taking my ground balls, making sure I am playing defense for the team, making sure I am doing the little things and helping my team. When I am doing that, I don’t have no problem,” he said.

“It took me a long time to get here. I want to make sure I am keeping myself at this level.”

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