By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Miami Marlins third baseman Martin Prado is not one to complain about the state of the franchise and demand a trade, because he’s happy just to be on a big league team.
Insert joke here.
OK, so the Marlins’ fitness for the majors is in question after they traded away half their starting lineup. But as outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich expressed displeasure about the makeover — and were then dealt away — the 34-year-old Prado had no desire to depart along with his younger teammates.
“To me it’s a little radical,” Prado said, “the way guys are thinking in this generation. When I came up, I was not allowed to speak. I’m not judging. I love them, and we’re going to miss them. I wish them the best. Now I have to handle myself, and we have to move on.”
In the wake of new CEO Derek Jeter’s payroll purge , Prado becomes the Marlins’ highest-paid everyday player — if he plays. The Marlins will pay him $13.5 million this season and $15 million in 2019, the final year of his contract.
But he spent most of 2017 as one of the highest-paid players on the disabled list, with right knee and hamstring injuries limiting him to 37 games, and is not 100 percent as spring training games begin.
“I feel all right,” he said. “I overworked the last few weeks and my hamstring was a little tight, so I backed off a bit.”
He’s swinging mostly in the batting cage so far and sitting out team drills, and he’s not in the lineup for Friday’s exhibition opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manager Don Mattingly said the goal is to have Prado ready for opening day. And Mattingly expects a significant contribution from the veteran, who batted .305 with 183 hits in 2016 and is a career .291 hitter, as well as a fine third baseman.
“Don’t forget what Martin looked like two years ago,” Mattingly said. “Last year was a tough season on him mentally, but for me this is one of our most valuable guys. He can flat-out hit, and that’s not going away. I’m counting on Martin.”
Prado’s biggest contribution might be his leadership as Miami’s oldest everyday player.
“The way he goes about his business is extraordinary,” Mattingly said. “He’s a tremendous worker, he wants to play every day, he’s got great routines and he’s successful. All that is leadership for a young club showing how you prepare to win.”
Prado embraces the role and bats away criticism of the Marlins’ new direction, noting that Jeter is following the rebuilding approach that took the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros to World Series titles.
Prado’s hunch is that improvement could come quickly in Miami.
“Derek Jeter might have some ideas that other teams might not have. He might have better ideas,” Prado said. “I’m pretty sure he’s not going to just want to be decent. He wants to be the best.”
Prado hopes to help in an old-school way. The 12-year veteran said he’ll go about his job the way he has for his entire career — by being professional and playing the game right.
That’s his way of showing his gratitude for a big league job.
“I’m thankful to be where I am,” he said.
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