Once center fielder Nate McLouth got off the Pittsburgh Pirates' bench this year, he wasn't about to return.
McLouth, the last Pirates position player to win a starting job during spring training, became the second player in three seasons to go from backup to Roberto Clemente Award winner.
McLouth was an unanimous winner of the award, which is presented annually by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America to the Pirates player who best exemplifies the standard of excellence achieved by Clemente.
Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez won the award in 2006, when Sanchez began the season as a utility infielder, and repeated in 2007.
McLouth, a backup during his first three major league seasons, became an NL All-Star in his first season as a starter. He hit .276 with 26 home runs, 46 doubles and 94 RBIs -- unusual power production for a hitter who often batted first or second -- and added 23 stolen bases. He tied with Houston's Lance Berkman for the NL lead in doubles and had a .356 on-base percentage.
At midseason, McLouth, left fielder Jason Bay and right fielder Xavier Nady had the best combined statistics of any NL outfield, but Bay and Nady were traded in late July.
Defensively, McLouth's errant throw Sept. 23 in Milwaukee was his first error in 166 games. His .997 fielding percentage led National League outfielders.
The Clemente award given by Pittsburgh baseball writers is not the same as that presented annually by Major League Baseball to a player based on sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team.
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