Martin Prado playing critical role as Yankees fight for playoffs – Metro US

Martin Prado playing critical role as Yankees fight for playoffs

Martin Prado Martin Prado is hitting .298 in 31 games for the Yankees.
Credit: Getty Images

Martin Prado was literally running in place as he conducted interviews Tuesday about his push to return from a hamstring injury.

It was not because he was trying to avoid the media but because he was itching to get back on the field.

“I got so much respect for this game,” Prado said. “It’s not about me. It’s about having an opportunity to play every day and to get where I am right now.”

Prado was the last of seven trade acquisitions by general manager Brian Cashman. It was a move that came in the last minutes of the non-waiver trade deadline and even though the Yankees entered Tuesday five games out in the wild-card race, they might be further back without Prado.

“Hitters like that, the biggest compliment you can give is that they’re just a pain in the ass,” Brandon McCarthy said. “Go back to [Derek] Jeter’s prime, that’s exactly [what Prado is doing]. He’s not knocking balls 20 rows deep. He’s not just driving the ball all over. But they’re just always on pitches.

“They’re hard to get out. It’s just line drive after line drive after line drive, and the weeks that those start to fall, it’s easy for a lineup to just kind of carry on his momentum.”

The Yankees are still a mediocre 18-16 with him but that’s hardly the fault of Prado, meaning if this lingering hamstring issue persists his presence will be missed even more.

Only two regulars are hitting more than .280 and Prado is the closest thing that the American League’s third-worst offense in terms of runs has to a .300 hitter. He is batting .298, .380 (27-for-71) over his last 18 games and .417 (15-for-36) over his last nine home games.

“He’s a big part of it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s been a really big part of our lineup.”

His latest big game came over the weekend when he was still not 100 percent. No matter the situation in the standings, someone at 70 to 80 percent could have easily said he was not ready but Prado does not take that route.

“Any team that I play for, the 24 guys, the coaching staff and the fans, if I feel that I like can play at 80 percent, it doesn’t matter if we’re going to make the playoffs or not, I got so much respect for this game and that’s the way I’ll always,” Prado said.

Prado is among the reasons the Yankees win but being the team’s hottest hitter is problematic.

Catcher Brian McCann has been mired under .250 all year, first baseman Mark Teixeira has been stuck under .230 and right fielder Carlos Beltran is in a 4-for-27 slump.

Prado has played third base, second base and right field in his month with the Yankees. He also is signed through next year. That’s when the Yankees hope to have an improved offense with Prado’s production a piece that blends into the mix.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.