SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Gerardo Parra’s practice glove is as small as a 12-year-old’s, and as red as a child’s toy fire engine.
But do not confuse it for a play thing.
Parra won his first Gold Glove last season, the first in which he used his little red glove for outfield drills and while shagging balls during in batting practice, and he is not about to change now.
If it is good enough for Omar Vizquel, Parra figures, it is good enough for him.
Vizquel, a Venezuelan native like Parra, won 11 Gold Gloves in his 23-year career as a shortstop with Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco, Texas and the White Sox.
“With the little glove, you need to stay focused on the ball, because if you miss the ball, your mouth is right there,” Parra said with a smile.
“The little one is like (just using) my hands. The regular one is like three more hands. You feel the difference.”
Parra adopted the routine after seeing Vizquel using the smaller glove in practice one day two years ago.
“He has good hands,” Parra said.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he has offered to let Parra use his 1985 glove in pregame work instead, but Para has politely declined.
“It’s given him better hands,” Gibson said of the little red glove.
“When he gets to the ball, if he gets his glove on the ball, he feels he is going to catch it.”
“You’ve watched him make several catches. He has the confidence to know that if he can get his hand on it … He has sure hands. When he gets to the ball, if he gets his glove on the ball, he feels he is going to catch it.”
Others have noticed. Parra has been heavily scouted this spring after losing his starting job to Jason Kubel, with Washington showing particular interest. The scouting grapevine said the D-backs were looking for a catcher and a shortstop in return, although general manager Kevin Towers said there have not been talks. Parra is hitting .327 with two homers and six RBIs in 55 at-bats this spring.
“We are a better team with him,” Towers said Saturday.
Parra won the Gold Glove as a left fielder last season, the first time a player at each outfield position was recognized. Previously, the usual winners all played center field.
Gibson has long been a fan of Parra’s play, and has said Parra will be used at all three outfield spots this season. He hit .294 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs while playing a career-high 142 games.
“He is going to play a lot more than probably you think he is. That’s my job to make him do so. You characterize the spring he’s had. Off the charts. You can see how people respect him (defensively),” Gibson said.
In Saturday’s Cactus League game between the Diamondbacks and White Sox, the White Sox had a runner on second base when their batter singled to left, and they held him at third rather than test Parra’s arm.
Parra is third in the in the National League with 29 assists since 2009, although he did not join the D-backs until the first week of May 2009 and has played far fewer innings than those ahead of him: Hunter Pence (36) and Jayson Werth (30). Parra has averaged one assist every 100 innings. Pence has one every 113 innings. Werth has one every 134.
“He can move all around. He can play shallower. He can play deeper. Just watch. It seems like he’s always in the right spot. It’s not by mistake,” Gibson said.