JUPITER, Fla. — Miami Marlins third baseman Martin Prado is expected to miss the start of the regular season after straining his right hamstring at the World Baseball Classic.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly already has ruled out Prado playing in any exhibition games.
"Obviously it's never good, but I'm encouraged it's a Grade 1," Mattingly said. "From there we just kind of wait until he's ready, honestly. We hope that he misses as little as possible, but we're going to definitely err on the side of caution."
A Grade I strain is considered the least severe.
"As we get to the end of camp we'll have a, probably, really good feel how long Martin is going to miss — at least a pretty good estimate," Mattingly said.
Playing for Team Venezuela, Prado injured his hamstring running out a ground ball in the sixth inning of Wednesday's loss to Team USA.
He left the game immediately, returning to South Florida to undergo an MRI exam on Saturday and consult with team doctors.
The Marlins are not attaching a timeline to his return to the lineup.
"We say, oh, he's only going to miss two weeks, then that two weeks comes and he's thinking, 'I've got to be ready by then' and if he's not quite ready then he's just not quite ready," Mattingly said. "I'd rather say we are going to get him healthy, make sure he's healthy."
The Marlins conclude Grapefruit League play on April 1 against Detroit. Their first regular season game is April 3 at Washington.
The 33-year-old Prado is the only Marlins starter over 30, and he serves as the unofficial captain of the club. A career .293 hitter, Prado batted .305 and drove in 75 runs last season.
In Prado's absence, utility players Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas are will handle the bulk of third base duties. Dietrich hit .279 with seven homers in 351 at-bats last season and Rojas hit .247 in 194 at-bats.
Dietrich drew Sunday's start at third against Washington. With the Marlins sending a split squad that included everyday shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to face the Mets, Rojas played shortstop against the Nationals.
Prado's injury is exactly the kind of setback managers fear when their players leave for the WBC.
"You're playing playoff intensity," Mattingly said. "You've seen the energy that's in those buildings. Your mind says go and sometimes maybe your body is just not quite ready."
Despite the injury to his veteran, Mattingly says he's enjoyed watching the WBC.
On Saturday, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton hit a long homer off the Western Metal Supply Building in San Diego and Christian Yelich doubled, drove in a run and scored another to lead Team USA past the Dominican Republic and into the semifinal round.
"It's good to see your guys having success," Mattingly said.