Schierholtz welcomes fresh start with Phillies
Outfielder hits decisive homer in debut after trade from Giants
WASHINGTON -- On his first official day as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Nate Schierholtz walked into the visitors' clubhouse at Nationals Park and glanced at the lineup written on the dry-erase board.
He liked what he saw. He was batting second and playing right field.
Then he went out and made sure it was a memorable debut. He singled in the third and then, in the top of the fifth, after Jimmy Rollins hit his second solo homer, ripped a 94-mph fastball from Nats starter Edwin Jackson over the fence in right-center to give his new team a one-run lead.
He also made a sliding catch to rob Bryce Harper leading off the bottom of the eighth, short-circuiting a potential come-from-behind rally as the Phillies won their second straight, 3-2.
"It's nice to go out there and contribute," he said. "It's great to be here. I think it's important for me [to make a good first impression] on and off the field because this is my family now. And I take pride in my defense. It's something I work hard on."
All he ever wanted was a chance to show what he could do. At the age of 28 he concluded that wasn't going to happen with the Giants, the team that drafted him in the second round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2003. So while being traded as part of a four-player deal that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco was wrenching, he also understood that it was for the best. "I never asked for a trade," he noted Wednesday. "I just sort of voiced my opinion [in an interview] that I was looking for an opportunity to play a little bit more. I wasn't getting that opportunity with the Giants.
"Over the years, a lot of outfielders came and went. After playing behind and with a lot of those guys, I just got to a point where I didn't ever see myself ever having an everyday role there. And that was something I felt like I needed to change, to earn. Just getting 100 at bats in a row, that was something I didn't think was going to happen.
"I hope [to get that opportunity with the Phillies]. I'm just happy to be here and having a fresh start. They told me I'd be playing so I'm just going to take it day by day and try to help the team out. Nothing's guaranteed but I'm looking forward to the opportunity here.
There may not be a better team in baseball right now for an outfielder looking for a place to shine. After trading both Pence and Shane Victorino before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Phillies have three outfield openings up for grabs. That's why Schierholtz, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. will get long looks in the final two months of the season.
The last time he played at Citizens Bank Park, on July 22, Schierholtz hit two home runs for the Giants."It's quite an upgrade [from San Francisco's spacious AT&T Park] as far as a place to play. It's a little bit warmer and a little bit more hitter-friendly. So that's definitely a plus," he said.
It also helps that he and Phillies infielder Kevin Frandsen, another former Giant, are close friends. Frandsen, in fact, was in Schierholtz's wedding.
Schierholtz is also looking forward to having the rabid Philadelphia fans on his side for a change."When you're playing against them, you hate the fans, because they're some of the most passionate fans in the game," he said. "Just looking back at the 2010 NLCS, I mean, it was mayhem out there. So I definitely have to give the fans credit for bringing their A game. I've got a few stories. I'll keep them to myself, but the fans definitely do their part trying to rattle the other teams."
With the Giants, he was pigeon-holed as a right fielder. The Phillies plan to give him a look at all three spots and he welcomes that challenge as well."He's a good defender. He's got a good arm. He gets a jump on balls," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Said Schierholtz: "I feel like I can play anywhere. In San Francisco, [manager Bruce Bochy] always threw me in right. That's where he liked me. I told him in Spring Training I was willing to play anywhere. I haven't played a lot of center but I'm open to it and think I could do it."
The left-handed hitter also takes pride in the fact that he's a career .291 hitter against lefties."You never want to be labeled as a guy who can't hit left-handed pitching. So that's something I've worked on," he said.
He can't really say why things didn't go right for him in San Francisco, why he never had more than 335 at-bats for the Giants in any season, why he made only 40 starts and had just 175 ABs this year.
"That's just the way it was," he said with a shrug. "I had talks with the manager and stuff over the years. I just felt like I had a short leash. I was like series by series. If I didn't perform for three games, that was my chance. It was a little bit pressing. Not just for myself, but for a handful of guys there. It was just kind of always uneasy. If you didn't get a hit, you were probably going back to the bench.
"So it got frustrating at times. We didn't see eye to eye. But, overall, San Francisco treated me great. I loved playing there. A lot of good memories."
And a chance, beginning Wednesday night, to start manufacturing new memories in Philadelphia.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.