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Prado is hot hand for Braves

Prado is hot hand for Braves

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MIAMI -- In his third year in the Major Leagues, Martin Prado is finally finding his name in the lineup on a consistent basis, and he's hitting a ton.

So the Braves' infielder must be healthy, right?

Not exactly.

"He's been dealing with a groin injury," manager Bobby Cox said. "And he's hitting, like, .500 for the month."

Well, almost.

Prado must've been one of the few Braves who were disappointed to see the calendar flip from August to September. Last month, the 24-year-old hit a Major League-leading .432 (32-for-74) with nine doubles and 12 RBIs in a bitter month for the rest of his teammates.

On the final day of August, during Sunday's 8-4 loss in the series finale against the Nationals, Prado peaked, hitting in the third spot of the lineup for the first time in his career and going 2-for-3.

Going into the series opener against the Marlins on Monday at Dolphin Stadium, Prado has eight multi-hit games in his last 11 starts.

"You get more experience with the pitching, the Major Leagues, and that starts to give you more confidence as a hitter and as a baseball player," said Prado, batting second and playing first base on Monday, about playing every day. "All you have to do is have the confidence when they give you the opportunity and show them that you can do the job."

Signed by the Braves as an undrafted free agent in 2001, Prado made his debut with Atlanta in 2006 but never saw consistent playing time until this year -- a season that saw him deal with various nagging injuries, including a trip to the disabled list for nearly two months because of a sprained thumb.

Now, even with that groin injury still bothering him a bit, the Maracay, Venezuela, native has found his name in the starting lineup in 14 of the Braves' last 15 games -- playing mostly first base lately and fluctuating in the batting order -- and has seen his batting average rise 38 points in that span. Even with Casey Kotchman back on the team after being reinstated from the restricted list, Prado's situation isn't likely to change.

But maybe it could've been even better.

"This year has been very difficult for me [in terms of injuries]," Prado said. "It's been the first year in my career that I've felt like this. I've always played every day. But it's one of those years where you need to find a way to play, even with the pain."

Prado's emergence has come at a difficult time for the rest of his team.

While Prado has been tearing it up at the plate, the Braves are 9-20 in August, are hitting .263 and the pitchers have posted a 6.04 ERA.

"This month, it's been very difficult for all of us," Prado said. "It's a time of year where it's the end for us. We're playing against a team that's on top of its division, and it's time to show to your organization that you can play with them.

"In this sport, you have to have tremendous patience. Then, when your moment comes, you need to take advantage."

Prado certainly has done that.

Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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