Such was the case on Thursday night, when Martin Prado made his first career start -- third career appearance -- at first base. His unfamiliarity with the position was evident in the seventh inning, when his errant toss toward the first-base bag resulted in a tying run the Mets used to propel themselves to a walk-off win over the Braves.
With Casey Kotchman on the bereavement list and Greg Norton unavailable because of a sore left shoulder, Prado once again was positioned at first base for Friday night's series opener against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
"You have to know what you can do and take advantage of every opportunity that they give you," said Prado, a utility infielder who has played second base throughout the majority of his professional career.
Norton, who injured his shoulder during a collision that followed Yunel Escobar's errant throw in Wednesday night's loss, said he should be able to return to the lineup on Saturday. As for Kotchman, the Braves have told him to take as much time as necessary to be with his ailing mother.
Kotchman's mother is dealing with an undisclosed medical condition at a St. Petersburg hospital. Braves manager Bobby Cox talked to his first baseman on Thursday night and learned that Kotchman's mother still was in stable condition.
"He's really shaken up," Cox said of Kotchman.
With Kotchman unavailable for an undetermined period, Prado will continue to come to the park prepared to play first base. During the final 10 minutes of batting practice on Thursday, he took grounders at the position for the first time in about three months.
Still, Prado certainly wasn't prepared to make an accurate toss to first base after diving to his right and grabbing Carlos Delgado's two-out grounder. It would have been a difficult play for a veteran first baseman, and the degree of difficulty was increased because left-handed pitcher Will Ohman made a late break toward first.
The throw was slightly behind Ohman, who had beat Delgado to the bag, and the baseball hit off his glove and rolled behind him.
"I looked up and saw about 20 people running toward first base," Prado said. "It's hard to make a perfect throw like that."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.