Braves benefiting from Prado's versatility

Braves benefiting from Prado's versatility

Braves benefiting from Prado's versatility
ATLANTA -- The Braves' locker room was almost empty on Friday night when catcher David Ross saw manager Fredi Gonzalez walking through.

"Hey, skipper," Ross yelled so that Martin Prado, standing to his left talking to the press, could hear. "I don't want to see Prado blocking balls and stuff."

Friday night's 7-5 win over the Mets started with Prado in his customary -- at least as customary as any position is for him -- left field with the understanding he'd be the emergency backup shortstop.

"For some reason today, skipper came up to me and said, 'Take a couple of ground balls at shortstop,'" said Prado. 'You never know. If something happens to Jack [Wilson], you'll be the emergency one.'"

That emergency came with one out in the fourth inning, when Wilson dislocated a joint in his right pinky finger. Wilson was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday.

But the "worst-case scenario" became a blessing in disguise, as three batters later, with the score 5-4 and runners at first and second, Mets catcher Josh Thole's bid for a game-tying single up the middle became an inning-ending forceout, when Prado ranged to his left, speared the ball and made a backhanded flip to second baseman Dan Uggla.

Prado had saved the day ... again.

"He's a Jack of all trades," said third baseman Chipper Jones. "We're lucky to have him, because he's saved our bacon more times than I can count over the years with his ability to be able to play every infield spot and a couple of outfield spots."

"He's that kind of player that a lot of times you take for granted, what he can bring for you," added pitcher Tim Hudson. "[Friday] was a perfect example of the ways he can help you win."

But although the expression "Jack of all trades" is most often followed by the cynical "master of none," Prado has proven to be a master of all.

"He plays the game like he's in the backyard," said Gonzalez. "We all played Wiffle ball, we all played pickup games, 'Yeah, I'll play short today. I'll play second.' That's the way he plays the game, and you feel comfortable that he can do the job."

Prado is a .980 career fielder -- .994 at first base, .982 at second and .963 at third. He's a .983 outfielder, after one-plus year out there and while juggling the other spots.

Saturday afternoon's game against New York is Prado's fourth career game at short, a position that prior to last night he'd played twice, in 2008.

Prado, who is hitting .316 with a team-high 33 multi-hit games, will likely be the shortstop until the Braves come up with a long-term solution should the injuries to Andrelton Simmons and Wilson linger.

After that it's back to left or third or first or second or wherever there's a hole that needs filling.

Pitcher, perhaps?

"Our bullpen is good right now. I'm not pitching," Prado said, and smiled. "Someday I'm hoping before I retire that I can pitch one inning."