Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/7/12
Martin Prado was out of place. He wasnt comfortable in the field or at the plate. And he certainly wasnt comfortable when he was on the disabled list. That pretty much sums up 2011 for Prado. It was a season of disappointment as he struggled to adjust to a new position, a new spot in the batting order and an injury that cost him more than a month of the season. He wants to leave last year in the past as he prepares for a year in which he returns as the starting left fielder and to a more comfortable place in the lineup. With his nearly disastrous 2010 season in the past, Prado is ready to move forward. Hes healthy, at ease and hes still a Brave. Prado blames himself for much of what went wrong last year. Always looking to please his team, he did what he was asked. And the Braves asked a lot of him. Fresh off his best season in the majors, the Braves wanted Prado to move from his familiar second base to left field. He knew newly acquired Dan Uggla wasnt suited for the change, so Prado did it. The Braves also wanted Prado to take over the leadoff duties, moving from more familiar spots in the lineup. He did. Again, no other Braves hitter was more suited to fill the role of leadoff hitter, although his skills fit better at other spots in the lineup, including the No. 2 hole, where he returned when the Braves traded for Michael Bourn last summer. The selfless moves wrapped in potential became problematic for Prado. Instead of building on his spectacular all-star season of 2010, he hit a career-low .260 in 129 games, one year after accumulating the breakthrough numbers of .307 with 100 runs, 184 hits, 15 home runs and 66 RBIs. His season of change became a season of turmoil. Prado carried his at-bats to the field and he brought his new position to the plate. His step forward became three steps back. "I was messed up mentally," Prado told MLB.com this spring. "I wasn't clear what I needed to do in different situations. To me, it felt like I had so much pressure on me. Nobody was putting pressure on me. I was putting pressure on myself. I wasn't having fun. Even when things went good, I was thinking too much." Still, with all the problems, Prado was hitting .277 and coming off a strong May when he headed to the DL with a staph infection in his right leg. The injury required surgery, and although Prado hit well in July, immediately after returning to the lineup, he slumped in August and September. He hit just .244 with two home runs in the 55 games after coming back from the injury and he had a .257 on-base percentage in September. His problems coincided with the teams swoon. And then came the off-season. Trade rumors swirled around Prado and starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens as the Braves reportedly fished for a power-hitting outfielder. Even though both Prado and Jurrjens were coming off injury-filled seasons, the Braves thought they carried enough talent and potential to land a slugger for left field. Prado understood the situation, but hes glad hes back with the Braves this spring. ''I love this team. They gave me a chance to play in the bigs,'' Prado told reporters earlier this week. ''Right now, I'm still with the Braves. That's the team I love the most. But I feel like at some point in my career, (a trade) is going to happen. I'm just preparing myself mentally. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm still part of this team.'' Prado has rediscovered his comfort level. Hes always been able to hit, and this year hell likely bat second behind Bourn, which will allow him to bunt, to hit behind runners and move them along. And hes had a year and another off-season to better acquaint himself with left field and learn the nuances of playing the outfield. Dont worry about Prado. Hes primed for a rebound.
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