Nate Schierholtz caught in middle of Cubs rebuild

Nate Schierholtz caught in middle of Cubs rebuild
March 14, 2014, 5:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz is caught in the middle of the rebuild. At the age of 30, he's not quite young enough to be considered part of "The Core." And he also doesn't have the status that comes from years as an everyday player.

So this will be another summer filled with trade rumors. Whatever happens, Schierholtz is definitely working on getting more playing time.

"There's a lot of things I can improve on," Schierholtz said. "Last year was a learning experience for me. It was the first time I played almost every day in a long time.

"I learned a lot and I can take that knowledge into this year. As long as I can stay healthy, I feel like I can achieve a lot more this year."

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Prior to last season, Schierholtz had never gotten more than 335 at-bats in a major-league season. The Cubs gave him a chance to prove his worth and he took advantage, racking up 32 doubles, 21 homers and 68 RBI in 462 at bats.

But as a left-handed hitter, he struggled against southpaws, hitting just .170 with a .553 OPS. Of course, he totaled just 66 plate appearances against lefties, so it's a small sample size.

Over his career, Schierholtz has hit lefties and righties remarkably similar, batting .265 with a .315 OBP off southpaws and .265 with a .314 OBP off righties. The difference, however, is 70 points in slugging (.367 to .438 against righties).

Schierholtz is hoping to make his case to first-year manager Rick Renteria and a new coaching staff.

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"A huge goal of mine is to play every day and not necessarily platoon as much," Schierholtz said. 
Schierholtz, a second-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2003, has spent the better part of the last seven years in the big leagues. He won a World Series with the Giants in 2010 and received another ring in 2012, after getting traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Hunter Pence deal before the deadline.

With so many fresh-faced kids in camp with the Cubs, Schierholtz joked that he and 29-year-old outfielder Ryan Sweeney are the "old guys." He considers that experience to be an asset and wants to repay the Cubs for giving him the platform to showcase his talents.

"I've been through a lot in my career,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to offer with the little things (I've picked up) after being a part of some winning teams."

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Though his name pops up in trade rumors every now and then, Schierholtz says he wants to be a part of the future with the Cubs. Last summer, he admitted he didn't want to be traded and forced to start over in another city with another team. He’s making $5 million in his final season before free agency.

A Bay Area guy believes he's found a home in Chicago. He likes daydreaming about what a championship would mean to the city and the long-suffering fan base.

"I really can't (imagine it), but I have a little bit of an idea now that I've played there," Schierholtz said. "I've been a part of other championship teams and I think Chicago would top everything."