PHOENIX — By nature, Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Martin Prado tends to insert himself as a captain figure on his respective teams.
He is, without fail, always the first player to get to the top step of a dugout after a run is scored. He hugs teammates as a means of congratulations. He takes it upon himself to both loosen the mood in a clubhouse and set the standard for work ethic among his teammates.
So, naturally, the Diamondbacks’ 8-20 start has taken a toll on him.
“The team’s going through a tough streak,” manager Kirk Gibson said Sunday. “I think he’s wearing it. He probably takes it a little bit harder than others.”
Indeed, in his second season in the desert, the 31-year-old has yet to really do much to help his adrift team. He instead epitomizes their struggles.
After beginning the year by going 3-for-25, Prado is hitting .234 with a .268 on-base percentage and a .280 slugging percentage.
Since April 10, he has struck out as many times as he has hit safely, going just 10-for-51 (.196) with a .212 OBP. In the Diamondbacks’ series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday, he was 0-for-4.
“He’s trying to put the team on his shoulders,” Gibson suggested. “And it’s never a good thing when you try to do that. I mean, it’s noble. He wouldn’t admit it. But I know him.”
Meanwhile, his woes at the plate seem to be following him to the field, where he has committed a team-high five errors — leading all National League third basemen in the measure. Last season, Prado committed just six errors in 96 starts at third base.
The out-of-the-ordinary fielding trials for Prado were none the more evident in the final two games of the Phillies series.
On Saturday, with the shift on versus left-handed Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, Prado failed to reel in a routine pop-fly in shallow leftfield in the eighth inning, beginning a game-winning rally for Philadelphia.
And on Sunday, though not charged with an error, the third baseman seemed to lose focus on a failed tag play at third base, causing a run to score. Shortstop Chris Owings took responsibility for the misadventure after the game, but Gibson didn’t shy away from implicating Prado for the failure, pointing out that he never covered third base.
“He’s probably over-trying,” Gibson went on. “You know, putting pressure on himself to do well and when he makes a mistake, maybe it has more of an effect on him.”
His manager can sympathize.
“I can relate to that,” Gibson said. “I used to throw stuff around and swear and break stuff (when I struggled).”
And the seven-year veteran himself has sailed these seas before, as recently as last season.
After being traded by the Atlanta Braves along with Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill and a pair of lower-level prospects before the 2013 season, Prado got out to a .238/ .287/ .336 start in the first 73 games with his new team.
Ultimately, though, he righted the ship — hitting .322 with a .373 on-base percentage and an .862 OPS over his final 82 games in 2013. And he did it neither by changing his routine nor taking a day off, but by keeping his head down to the grindstone and continuing with his unparalleled, self-mandated workload.
“There’s probably not many that have the capacity to attempt to do what he does,” Gibson said in regard to Prado’s preparation and work ethic. “But that is who he is and that’s what has made him good and I respect him for that.”
And, as his third baseman continues to bob into troubled waters, the Diamondbacks skipper remains unwavering in his faith in Prado’s ability to turn it around.
“I believe in him. He’s my guy.”