Atlanta shifts into position

Updated: March 17, 2011, 10:29 AM ET
By Buster Olney

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A scout watched him move around left field for a couple of games and came away impressed by Martin Prado, who shifted from the infield after Atlanta acquired Dan Uggla. "Like a duck taking to water," the scout said.

From Prado's point of view, the change hasn't been easy. Rather, it has been a product of months of work because outfielders run differently than infielders, and they throw differently, and of course, there is a different mindset. Some infielders who have shifted to the outfield complain about the tedious pace and how they miss being close to the central flow of the game action.

But Prado embraced the shift in December, when he and his personal trainer started going to the Braves' spring training complex. The trainer would hit him one fly ball after another, without tipping him off as to where he was aiming the ball, and Prado would take off in pursuit -- using longer strides, he explained, rather than the short, quick steps of an infielder.

And he spent more time long-tossing, to extend his arm action. Middle infielders will often propel the ball with a quick flick of the wrist, without the extension, to release rapidly, to get the ball to a fellow infielder to start the double play. As a left fielder, Prado has to make longer, more powerful throws, using his shoulder more than he would while playing second base. "It was about two months before I was comfortable," Prado said.

There are still three aspects of playing in the outfield that concern him:

1. He continues to learn how to charge a ball hit in front of him and how to use his feet in the approach.

2. He wants a better feel for the line drive hit right at him. Recently, he was playing against the Cardinals, positioned deep, and Matt Holliday mashed a ball over his head. Prado felt afterward that he had misjudged the ball. "That's something I have to learn," he said. Almost all outfielders will tell you that the toughest ball for them to read is the line drive smashed right at them.

3. Prado's experience in the outfield this spring has been exclusively in day games, and he wants to learn more about catching liners and fly balls in night games, in which he'll have to combat the glare of the lights. Prado could get his first shot tonight, actually, when the Braves play host to the Tigers, in a game that starts at 6 ET.

Chipper Jones has had an excellent spring playing third base, and the Braves have other infield options -- Diory Hernandez has been impressive -- but the presumption is that if Jones went down Prado could be an option to shift to third base. So a couple of times a week, he is taking grounders in the infield ... just in case.