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03/11/08 6:28 PM ET
Schierholtz's stats may not be enough
Young outfielder faces steep competition to make Giants roster
By Rick Eymer / Special to MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It seems only natural that outfielder Nate Schierholtz will appear on the Giants' 25-man roster sooner rather than later this year. After all, he's made steady progress since San Francisco made him its second-round Draft pick of 2003.
Schierholtz, who grew up in the Bay Area, lasted less than a year at the Rookie League, short-season Class A and low Class A levels. Then he spent a year each at Class A, Double-A and Triple-A. He made his debut with the Giants last year as well, hitting .304 in 112 at-bats.
Last year's Organizational Player of the Year made quite an impression on the San Francisco brass in his two stints with the big club. He's on the fast track to the Majors and would normally be a cinch to make the Opening Day roster.
Except that outfield is the deepest area of the Giants' lineup, and some decisions are made pragmatically and business-like, forgetting who's more talented than whom.
Schierholtz has an option remaining, which means he can be sent to the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies without fear of losing him to another team. That's not true for a couple of other talented Giants outfielders.
"I've been swinging the bat all right," Schierholtz said while relaxing in front of his locker Tuesday morning. "I've gotten a few starts here and there and I'm trying to put good at-bats together."
With Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Dave Roberts set to take most of the outfield starts, it leaves little for the likes of Schierholtz, Fred Lewis and Rajai Davis.
All three of the young outfielders are qualified to play in the Majors. Unless there's a trade, one of the three seems likely to be a little disappointed, and Schierholtz is the leading candidate.
"It's not something I think about," he said. "I know I'll get an opportunity. I think I can play up here. It's just a matter of time."
Davis and Lewis have more Major League experience, and both made a splash after joining the Giants.
Davis gave the Giants another speed threat at the top of the lineup, stealing a combined 22 bases last season.
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Lewis gave fans something to remember by hitting for the cycle in his third game with the Giants last year in Colorado.
Schierholtz may be the best pure hitter.
"I try not to over think," he said. "My focus is on being patient and getting my pitch to hit, and to keep making adjustments. As you play, there are always things you want to prove. You want to show you're constantly getting better and making adjustments. It's important to show that you are working hard."
Hitting coach Carney Lansford leaves him alone, a tribute to his work ethic and the quality of his swing.
"He's there when we need him," Schierholtz said. "He hasn't made any changes, and he's watched me in here in the Fall League. He also saw me last year," when the Grizzlies played Colorado Springs, where Lansford worked last season. "He's seen me enough and he lets me hit the way I want to hit. I'd definitely trust his opinion."
Schierholtz's spring average (.238) is not where he wants it to be, but he doesn't strike out much and turns in productive at-bats. He led the Giants with eight RBIs entering Tuesday, and that's with five hits. He was one of 10 Giants with a home run and had hit three sacrifice flies.
"We work on situational hitting during batting practice," Schierholtz said. "After that, for me, it's trying to use the gaps and staying away from the lines."
Schierholtz was drafted as a third baseman and was quickly converted to the outfield.
It's his hitting that will keep him in the Majors, if the Giants (or some other team) make room.