Rich Donnelly, the Pirates' instructor now in his fifth decade in professional baseball, was swatting grounders to third baseman Andy LaRoche yesterday afternoon when he stopped for a moment to catch a reporter's attention.
"That kid," he said, pointing to LaRoche, "should be the National League Gold Glove winner. And people ought to know that."
It hardly was the first time Donnelly had expressed this, having grabbed the ear of many of the managers and coaches who do the voting.
"I'm telling people because I don't think people are aware of what Andy's doing. There's nobody better there right now, and I'll stake my reputation on that."
Some numbers will bolster his case: LaRoche's .970 fielding percentage ranks second behind the San Diego Padres' Kevin Kouzmanoff, and this despite LaRoche having committed three of his nine errors in the season's first two games. He also ranks second in assists, third in double plays.
A more advanced metric that many teams -- including the Pirates -- use is called ultimate zone rating, and LaRoche ranks third in the league behind the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman and Philadelphia Phillies' Pedro Feliz.
"Forget the numbers and watch the kid play," Donnelly said. "Look at the degree of difficulty. Look at his arm. Look at the way he's fielding bunts. Nobody's better right now. And that kid and Perry Hill deserve a lot of credit for it."
LaRoche also praised Hill, the Pirates' respected infield instructor.
"I'd say all of the credit goes to Perry," LaRoche said. "Just look at the improvement I've made since last year, or even the beginning of this year. I'd heard a lot about him before -- everyone in baseball has -- but you don't really appreciate it until you work with him."
Has he thought about a Gold Glove?
"Oh, I've got no chance. There are so many big names out there."
The Pirates have never won a Gold Glove at third or first base.
Manager John Russell is among many praising how new outfielder Lastings Milledge has conducted himself after controversial stays in New York and Washington.
"He's been great, very attentive, very vocal with his teammates in a good way ... he's signing autographs, he's just very pleasant," Russell said. "I have absolutely seen nothing other than determination and drive on the field and working hard. You hear the things from in the past, but I don't look at him and say, 'OK, I'm waiting for something to happen.' He loves being here. I think he has said it a few times in the paper, this is something that he feels like he earned."
• There has been no movement on the Miguel Angel Sano front. Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, is waiting for a bigger market to emerge for Sano's services, although he likes what already is there. The Pirates remain intensely interested.
• Rehabilitating pitcher Phil Dumatrait arrived at PNC Park, where he will remain until Thursday, when he makes his next start for Class AAA Indianapolis. "My shoulder feels back to normal," Dumatrait said. Upon joining the Pirates, which will happen after two or three starts, he will be used in long relief.
• LaRoche and Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan, formerly of the Pirates, spent part of the afternoon hosting children at PNC as part of a charity mission.