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Notes: Prado gets hits, rotation battle continues

@JoeFrisaro
March 14, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As Spring Training enters its final stretch, Martín Prado is ready to pick up the pace. Prado went 2-for-3 on Thursday in the Marlins’ 12-6 victory over the Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The hits were Prado’s first of Spring Training. The

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As Spring Training enters its final stretch, Martín Prado is ready to pick up the pace.

Prado went 2-for-3 on Thursday in the Marlins’ 12-6 victory over the Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The hits were Prado’s first of Spring Training. The 35-year-old has seen limited action in Grapefruit League play, due to his current program to build back from injury. He had been 0-for-13 entering the day, and 0-for-14 before he notched a single in the second inning.

“Not because I had a good game, but I’ve been working on my timing the last couple of days,” Prado said. “Finally, I’ve gotten into a rhythm. I’m getting into a routine where I feel like I’m getting ready for games and situations.”

Prado had an injury-plagued 2018, appearing in just 54 games due to hamstring, quad and oblique ailments.

Early in Spring Training, the Marlins noted that Prado would be eased into action, frequently playing in simulated games on back fields. Prado, a right-handed hitter, and switch-hitter Neil Walker are expected to split time at first base.

The Marlins open against the Rockies on March 28 at Marlins Park, giving Prado two weeks to get sharp for the regular season.

Prado is making the trip to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Friday, so he will get more at-bats against the Braves. To get Prado up to speed, manager Don Mattingly said he will get at-bats either in Grapefruit League games or on the back fields.

“We’ll try to get him regular at-bats, as much as possible,” Mattingly said. “Everybody has to get ready. We’ll try to get him a pinch-hit [opportunity] on those other days. If not he can go on those back fields.”

Making a push to be ready for the opener, Prado wants as many at-bats as he can get.

“It’s just the timing,” Prado said. “You can work so much on mechanics and stuff like that. But, when you go up there, you’re going to forget about the mechanics and just be on time and be ready to hit. Today was one of those days, it was OK.”

Seven starters for five spots?
Finalizing the five-man rotation may not be as cut and dry as you’d think. The Marlins are currently weighing keeping all seven of their starting candidates and using them in some form of rotation.

“It’s something we’ll talk about, however that shakes out,” Mattingly said. “We have seven guys pretty much looking at five spots. Then, we look at what we think is the best for the team and each guy.”

The only announced spot is right-hander Jose Urena, who has already been announced as the Opening Day starter. The rest could be used in different ways.

Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen, Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez and Caleb Smith round out the finalists.

“You can go with, I think of some form, of a six,” Mattingly said. “We really haven’t talked about a six-man rotation.”

Smith (left lat surgery) and Lopez (right shoulder) finished 2018 on the injured list. Both are healthy, and arguably are throwing the best of any of the candidates. But they will also likely have their innings closely monitored.

“There’s different parameters for each guy,” Mattingly said. “If it’s innings we’re worried about. Or if it’s continued use. Or if they’re developing pitches. All of those types of things. I think those are important factors.”

Straily started Thursday, giving up four runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings and logging 74 pitches.

“This is always valuable time to focus on your craft, and to try to get better in certain areas,” Straily said. “It was nice to get the pitch count up and everything, but that’s about all I can take away from today.”

Preparing for pending rules changes
The days of situational relievers appear to be coming to an end.

In a joint announcement by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Thursday, one of the rules changes on the horizon for 2020 is that a reliever must face a minimum of three batters.

The Marlins have already been moving away from situational relievers, specifically lefties who face exclusively left-handed hitters. Miami has also carried eight relievers the past few seasons.

“I think, in general, baseball has gotten away from it,” Mattingly said. “Just because of the extra guy in the ‘pen. The amount of usage you are getting out of your starters. A lot of teams go with that third time through [the order], and they really tax bullpens. It’s hard to ask that much of your ‘pen, and then have a guy that just gets one hitter out.”

Up next
The Marlins travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Friday to take on the Braves at 1:05 p.m. ET. Wei-Yin Chen is lined up to start, and Pablo Lopez is scheduled to pitch in relief. Both are in the mix for rotation spots. Atlanta counters with left-hander Sean Newcomb.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.