PHILADELPHIA — The tough Philly media melted for Nate Schierholtz when the Cubs outfielder returned to Citizens Bank Park last August.
With the aging Phillies in decline, it became a chance to put some heat on general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and a front office that’s been addicted to big-name players and slower to embrace analytics.
Contending teams might value Schierholtz, who could be on the move again as the Cubs prepare for another fire sale. It’s been a down year, but this is still a left-handed bat and a plus defender with two World Series rings.
The Phillies acquired Schierholtz from the San Francisco Giants in the Hunter Pence trade at the 2012 deadline. Schierholtz didn’t gain any traction in Philadelphia, dealing with a fractured toe and inconsistent playing time before getting non-tendered.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were among the teams that showed interest in Schierholtz, who turned down multi-year offers hoping to prove he’s an everyday guy. The Cubs signed him to a one-year, $2.25 million deal that looked like a bargain when he put up 21 homers and 68 RBI last season.
It’s been a different story in 2014. Philadelphia writers haven’t been swarming his locker this weekend. He didn’t hit his first home run until May 26, and then homered again four days later. He entered Saturday batting .215, with extra-base hits in three of his last six starts, signs that maybe he could be getting out of this funk.
“I know I’m a better player than I showed the first few months,” Schierholtz said. “That wasn’t me. I knew it was going to come around. It took longer than I hoped and obviously I still got a lot to do the next four months. But I’m confident and that’s really all that matters.”
Schierholtz is straightforward with reporters and doesn’t call attention to his game. He follows his daily routine, bringing a professional attitude into the clubhouse. He’s smooth and steady in right field.
“He has scuffled, but each time he steps in the box, we feel like he’s going to come through for us,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “He works tremendously hard and he’s very diligent in the way he goes about his business. It’s just kind of been tough for him lately. But I think we all feel very confident with his bat in our lineup.”
Schierholtz is a quiet guy who blocks out the noise. He’s 30 years old and will be a free agent after this season. The Cubs got hits on him before last year’s trade deadline and again this offseason. Maybe he’ll warm up at the right time.
“Just trying to keep a good approach up there and swing at good pitches,” Schierholtz said. “I feel like it’s coming together.”