It was 8:15 on Tuesday morning, and Diamondbacks third baseman Martin Prado wore a smile on his face and a wool hat designed to look like a medieval helmet on his head. One more thing about the knitted cap: It had a built-in beard.

“I don’t know who gave that to him,” second baseman Aaron Hill said. “But he was eating it up a little bit.”

To his teammates’ delight, Prado unleashed an evil laugh. It was a silly moment, but it encapsulated what has changed with Prado over the course of a year. This time last year, he mostly sat quietly at his corner locker at Salt River Fields. Looking back, he called it a year of doing “recon,” of trying to learn his new teammates and letting them understand him.

He also called it a learning experience.

“I was trying to be a person that I wasn’t,” Prado said.

As the key player the Diamondbacks received in the blockbuster deal that sent outfielder Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves, Prado said he put too much pressure on himself to live up to expectations. He struggled in the season’s first three months before finishing strongly, bringing his end-of-year numbers up to his normal range.

It is hard to call it a bad season, but Prado knows he can play better and be more consistent. More like the player he was in Atlanta. And he thinks his comfort level has a lot to do with that.

He has looked comfortable through two Cactus League games, going 5 for 7 with two doubles.

“He’s capable of winning a battle title,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “He really is. He's much more comfortable this year, you can tell. He’s swinging it extremely well right now.”

When Prado had bad games early last season, he would take them home with him. He would drag one bad day into another. Soon it became a bad week, then a bad month.

“I was going home and I couldn’t sleep,” Prado said. “I was like, ‘Man, I’m not having good times.’ I think sometimes people don’t realize how hard it is for players to not perform well for the team and not do everything well for the team.”

Prado said he wasn’t following Upton closely but that it was hard to miss his hot start with the Braves. It also was hard for Prado not to think about the four-year, $40 million contract the Diamondbacks gave him, and about all the ways he wasn’t earning the money.