Aaron Rowand

Nate Schierholtz on being less “bulky,” playing CF and his “Giant” wedding party (video interview)

For a quiet, unassuming guy, Nate Schierholtz is one of the most polarizing players on the San Francisco Giants’ roster. You’re either in two camps, and there’s no overlap:

1. Schierholtz is a fourth outfielder (at best) who’ll turn 28 in a week. If he was a bona fide Major League starter with corner outfield power, he would’ve shown it by now. Sure, the arm is nice, but the Giants need someone who can hit homers and show a little more discipline at the plate. Plus, for a guy who’s pretty fast he’s not exactly a base-stealer.

2. Schierholtz is one of the best defensive right fielders the Giants have ever had, with the kind of arm strength that turns doubles into singles and embarrasses those who dare put it to the test. His minor league numbers were excellent at every level, and Schierholtz carried the team for stretches of the 2011 season before breaking his foot in August. Plus, he hit the longest non-Bonds HR of any Giant in the past decade in Colorado, and if you believe a player can be “clutch” Schierholtz certainly fits the description.

Schierholtz is currently slated to start in right field on Opening Day, but there are obstacles for him to hurdle if he wants to be the everyday starter. After the Giants traded for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, only one outfield spot remains — and with a logjam at first base, Brandon Belt and the ever-lovable Aubrey Huff loom in the background.

In the interview below, I asked Schierholtz about his willingness to play center field, and Schierholtz sounded more than ready:

“I’ve been taking my reps everywhere but right field,” Schierholtz said of his off-season regimen.

“I feel like if you can play outfield you can play outfield. It’s going to be a little bit of extra work and reps, but I feel like I can play any outfield position so I’m definitely more than willing to put in the time.”

According to an interview with Giants Nirvana, Bruce Bochy doesn’t seem all that interested in testing Schierholtz’s defensive versatility:

Giants Nirvana: One of the things last year with Aaron Rowand’s struggles and Andres Torres’ inconsistencies… the Giants had sort of a vacancy in centerfield. Nate Schierholtz was hitting well; do you think he could handle centerfield at all? That was something that was never tried…was that considered?

Bruce Bochy: Well, we have talked about Nate going to centerfield, but now with Pagan and Cabrera that wouldn’t make any sense for us because Nate is such a good rightfielder, particularly in our ballpark. So it would just make sense to leave him in right field, where he’ll give us the great defense he gives us there, and have Pagan or Melky in centerfield.

I chatted with Nate Schierholtz last year (pretty sure our conversation took place at the same table), and he seemed almost somber. He was upset that a shoulder injury hindered his play throughout most of the 2010 season, and he seemed to have spent the entire off-season working out like a madman.

On Friday, Schierholtz seemed noticeably happier. He just got married, which I asked him about (I saw on Facebook that Kevin Frandsen was in his wedding party, but he let me know of a couple other former Giants who served as groomsmen … Sergio Romo was also at the wedding as a guest, and perhaps other Giants were as well — I didn’t ask).

He mentioned that he wasn’t as bulky as in prior years due to focusing more on baseball activities and flexibility than pumping iron. Physically and mentally, Schierholtz seems like he’s comfortable in his own skin and ready to “do a lot more damage” in 2012.

“I haven’t set my goals yet, but I’m definitely looking to build on what I did last year. I feel like a different player,” Schierholtz said.

“It’s a bummer I broke my foot and had to miss the last six weeks, but on the other hand I’m very confident coming into this season.”

Among other things, Schierholtz talked about how his approach has changed, due in part to the sports psychology books he’s been reading during the off-season.


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