JUPITER, Fla. — While most of the Braves offense has struggled, left fielder Martin Prado has excelled by getting back to what he did during his All-Star season in 2010.
He’s hitting balls up the middle or to the opposite (right) field, instead of trying to pull them like he did when he slumped last season.
“That’s my main approach right now, just trying to see the ball well and hitting the other way,” said Prado, who is 7-for-10 with two doubles and three walks in his past three games.
He went 3-for-4 in Monday’s 5-4 loss to St. Louis, raising his spring average to .435, easily the best among Braves lineup regulars. Two hits Monday were up the middle and the other to right field.
“That’s Martin,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “He’s going to hit. Nobody on this club expects any different. I know that last year bugged him and he went home in the offseason and took care of business. You can see he’s probably the one hitter at this point that’s game-ready.”
Prado said: “I’m not worrying about pulling the ball, even if they pitch me inside. I’m just trying to go the other way, just trying to get my hands inside and put a good swing on the ball.”
More aggressive on bases
The Braves have three stolen bases in two days after stealing none previously this spring. Tyler Pastornicky stole a base Sunday against the Blue Jays and Prado and shortstop prospect Andrelton Simmons had one apiece Monday.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Braves before the game to be ready for some hit-and-run calls and other aggressiveness on the bases.
“That’s something that we want, that I want to preach and bring to this organization,” he said. “We got a little bit better last year as a team, and we want to continue to improve in that. There’s runs out there to be made on the bases.”
Reliever Arodys Vizcaino, diagnosed with inflammation in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow, was still being evaluated and more would be known in the next couple of days, Braves general manager Frank Wren said….
Braves pitchers issued 11 walks Monday including three by minor league lefty Dusty Hughes in a two-run sixth inning, when the Cardinals took a 3-2 lead. Cory Gearrin gave up three hits and the winning run in the ninth inning, after Brandon Hicks struck out looking with two runners on to end the Braves’ ninth. Hicks is 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts….
Closer Craig Kimbrel allowed a hit and two walks to load the bases with none out in the seventh inning, then retired the next three (two on strikeouts) without giving up a run…
Jonny Venters pitched another perfect inning Monday on seven pitches including one strikeout. In his last appearance Friday against the Mets, he struck out all three batters he faced without any of them making contact….
Freddie Freeman was picked off at second base when Jason Heyward tried to bunt after seeing the third baseman playing deep and over. Gonzalez said it was a good decision by Heyward to try to catch the Cardinals off guard, though he missed the pitch with his bat.