Schierholtz credits Sveum with helping seal deal
Club's new right fielder to attend annual Cubs Convention starting Friday
CHICAGO -- After Nate Schierholtz was traded from the Giants to the Phillies last summer, he made his Philadelphia debut Aug. 1 against the Nationals. In the fifth inning, Jimmy Rollins led off with a home run and Schierholtz launched the next pitch for a homer, which endeared him to Phillies fans.
The Nationals pitcher that day? Edwin Jackson, who is now Schierholtz's teammate on the Cubs. Both free agents signed with Chicago this offseason, and this week, they'll meet at the Cubs Convention, which begins Friday at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers.
Do the Cubs need extra security? Schierholtz laughed.
"He's had his games against me, too," Schierholtz said of Jackson. "I've faced him a handful of times. I've taken a couple 0-fers against him, and I've had a couple good games against him. It's all in good fun. This offseason, I've been working out with another pitcher who I went deep off a couple times last year and we joke about it."
Schierholtz, who, for the record, was 3-for-6 against Jackson in 2012, has talked to the right-hander since that August game, but not since the two signed their new deals. The Cubs Convention isn't just a chance for fans to look ahead to the new baseball season. It's also an opportunity for the players to meet their new teammates.
"I'm looking forward to it," Schierholtz said of the fan fest and being in Chicago. "I couldn't be happier with choosing Chicago and I'm looking forward to good things again."
Part of the reason for his optimism was the promise from Cubs manager Dale Sveum that Schierholtz would be a regular in right field. The Cubs' front office started talking to the outfielder as soon as he became a free agent.
"I had a long conversation with Dale Sveum, and they gave me every indication it was my job to win, and that I would have a great shot to play right field every day and show what I can do," Schierholtz said Monday from his California home. "That made the Cubs very appealing to me. That was one of my goals coming into the offseason was to find somewhere I could have an opportunity to play more and be on a team that was going to win games, too. I think the Cubs will be a good mix of those two things."
Schierholtz sounds more optimistic than some Cubs fans, still smarting after a 101-loss season in 2012.
"When I first got called up with the Giants back in '07 and '08, we weren't very good," he said. "We lost a lot of games and it wasn't a lot of fun. I feel I've been fortunate enough to be on both ends of the spectrum. I've been on losing teams and I've been lucky enough to win a World Series and been on some good Giants teams, too.
"I think things can turn around quickly," he said of the Cubs. "I like our pitching staff. That's one of the keys to winning, obviously. I think things are headed in the right direction."
Sveum, who is entering his second season, apparently sealed the deal with his talk.
"We had a couple really great conversations, and to be honest with you, I feel he was the reason I was so motivated to sign in Chicago," Schierholtz said. "I've talked to many other general managers and managers, and there was something about Dale that felt right."
Schierholtz, who turns 29 on Feb. 15, is a career .270 hitter covering all or part of the last six seasons with the Giants and Phillies. A left-handed hitter, he has spent the majority of his career playing right field, where he has a .989 fielding percentage.
"He's certainly going to play a ton for us," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of Schierholtz. "We feel he's a guy who has been undervalued and a guy who, with more at-bats, can thrive. He's played in the National League West and has played in tough hitters' ballparks."
NL West ballparks can be frustrating for hitters. Schierholtz has a career .257 average at Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, PETCO Park and AT&T Park, while he's hit .389 in nine games at Wrigley Field.
"Playing in AT&T Park can be difficult at some times from an offensive perspective," Schierholtz said. "I'm looking forward to hitting at Wrigley, especially when the summer hits. The NL Central is known to have a lot of good hitters' parks. I definitely factored that in as opposed to going back to the National League West. I feel the NL Central is a great place to hit. That was one thing that excited me."
He was nicknamed "Nate the Great" by Giants' broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper after delivering a clutch game-winning home run in 2011, and quickly added that the moniker "didn't start from me." Schierholtz has some work to do to earn that tag from Cubs fans, who he's eager to play in front of.
What may help the most, though, is Sveum. The player and manager connected in their brief talks.
"I felt like he believed in me and believed in the potential I have to put up a lot better numbers than I have in the past," Schierholtz said of Sveum. "I feel we're going to get along."
Hopefully, he'll have no problems with Jackson, either.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.