WASHINGTON -- Martin Prado wears many hats on the Marlins. The veteran third baseman this season has been a team leader, a club spokesman, as well as a .300 hitter.
In Miami's season finale on Sunday against Washington at Nationals Park, Prado not only started at third base, he also was the club's ceremonial manager for the day. After after the Marlins lost, 10-7, Prado said he will never second-guess a manager again.
"I can describe this day like after Ichiro [Suzuki] first pitched [last season]," Prado said. "After he pitched, and got hit pretty hard, he was like, 'I don't want to pitch any more.' Sometimes you question managers and guys making decisions. Now that I was in that spot, only for one game, I don't know if I can do it. There is so much stuff. The game speeds up for you. I won't ever say anything bad about any manager."
Ichiro actually made his only appearance pitching in a big league game in the season finale last year at Philadelphia. The 42-year-old outfielder, who picked up his 3,030th big league hit on Sunday, said he never wants to repeat that experience.
Prado managed Sunday, and catcher Jeff Mathis was his bench coach. Prado singled in his first at-bat in the first inning, but after lining out in the third, he came out of the game, with Derek Dietrich taking over at third base. Prado encouraged umpires to have a crew-chief review on Destin Hood's drive in the fourth, which was initially ruled in play before being overturned to a two-run homer.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Prado made a pitching change, calling on left-hander Justin Nicolino while removing starter Tom Koehler from the game.
"I was just thinking, I might just get punched in the face by T.K.," Prado said. "I have to take it, because I'm in this spot. I had Mathis next to me, and he agreed. He knows T.K. more than anybody. So he told me, 'I think it's time to go to the bullpen.' I can't imagine how difficult it is for a manager to take out a guy in any situation."
Koehler, who gave up five runs in three-plus innings, was more upset at himself for the way he was throwing.
"I think it's a little bit funnier [now] then I did at the time," Koehler said. "I was more frustrated with the way I was throwing the ball. I've seen other teams do that in the past."
The concept of having players coach and manage the final game is something manager Don Mattingly picked up from during his days with the Yankees and Dodgers.
Since Sunday's game wasn't going to impact the postseason standings in any way, Prado was assigned managerial duties for the day.
"It's been going on for a while," Mattingly said before the game. "It's a nice little tradition. Obviously, if the game had everything on the line, you couldn't do it. But this seems like an effective day to do it."
The Marlins were eliminated from Wild Card contention last week, and on Saturday, the Nationals secured home-field advantage in their National League Division Series with the Dodgers.
So the timing was right for the Marlins to add a little levity at a time the organization is mourning the death of Jose Fernandez, who passed away on Sept. 25 after a boating accident.
Many feel Prado will be a manager at some point in the future. He got a taste of it on Sunday.
In baseball history, there have been a number of player-managers, including Joe Torre, Frank Robinson and Pete Rose.
"That used to happen all the time in the past," Mattingly said. "Martin seems like he could be one of those guys."
Before announcing their intentions to reporters, the Marlins alerted the Nationals and umpires of what they were doing.
"The biggest thing we'll do is make sure we won't make any kind of farce out of it," Mattingly said beforehand. "Make sure we do it right."
Even though the decisions were made by the players, the coaching staff was still in the dugout.
"We're all going to be here," Mattingly said. "It's not like we're all going to go in and watch football. We'll be out here. We're not going to let anybody get hurt or not warmed up or anything like that."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.