It’s not very often that a 25-year-old, .310 career minor league hitter who can run and well as field almost as well as he can hit is struggling to get any consistent playing time in the big leagues.
Unfortunately for Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz, finding a regular gig in the majors has been hard to come by.
Since his debut in 2007, the Danville, Calif. native, has been the odd man out in the Giants' starting outfield, which is something that has been hard to figure out when you put into account San Francisco’s offensive struggles.
Now in his first full year in the big leagues, it had basically been the same deal for Schierholtz as the previous cameos in his career, relegated to mostly pinch-hitting and a start during the week would be somewhat of a shock.
It had many scratching their heads.
The lack of any kind of change had people jumping to conclusions. Maybe manager Bruce Bochy has something against Schierholtz, maybe it was a call coming from upstairs and Brian Sabean was behind it all.
Whatever it was, most likely the hope that Fred Lewis would eventually break out of his funk at the plate after starting the season so hot, Schierholtz wasn’t seeing the field other than a quick pinch-hit appearance and the occaisional start to give a regular the day off.
But with Lewis struggling on the Giants’ east coast swing, going 3-for-24 and playing average defense at best, Bochy is obviously looking for a change.
Could the local boy be the one to replace the man who replaced that guy named Bonds?
His overall numbers this season entering Sunday wouldn’t exactly blow your mind: .240 average and only five RBI. However, it’s really hard to evaluate those kind of stats when you consider how little he has seen regular playing time in 2009.
Is it really fair to judge a guy on how his season is going and if he can become an everyday player when he has only started 12 games all year?
Don’t think so.
On Sunday, in the series finale against cross-bay rival Oakland, his third start in four days, the Nate Schierholtz era as the everyday right fielder might have officially began.
Sandwiched between two great defensive plays was the inside-the-park home run that everybody who was in attendance, including yours truly, will remember for a long time to come.
After showing the makings of a professional hitter in his first plate appearance, stinging a pitch on the outside corner between the third baseman and shortstop with authority, Schierholtz hit a rocket into Triples Alley. As Jack Cust struggled to dig it out of the fencing, Schierholtz turned it into another gear and as he was approaching third with the crowd roaring, there was no hesitation to send him home.
As he slid across home, the close to 38,000 in attendance, including yours truly, realized that this Schierholtz kid was here to stay.
You can always read scouting reports of what a player can or can’t do on the field, but once you see it first-hand, you never really whether to believe it or not.
With his performances lately, Schierholtz is living up to the billing and the best part is, he’s forcing Bochy and the Giants to play him. He’s showing why he was regarded so highly coming out of the minors.
The man has hit everywhere in the minors. Power, average, run production, anything you want, Schierholtz has done it.
It’s not just his bat that’s doing the talking.
As we’ve seen this past week, he makes the team better not only offensive side of things, but defensively as well. By taking over the duties in right field, he slides Randy Winn over to left, where his average arm strength is more suited.
In comparison, Schierholtz has a gun and like any right fielder and like any young outfielder, he likes to show it off. If he keeps nailing people like he has in his past two starts in right, there are going to be plenty of outfield assists going to the record of the Giants’ No. 12.
With a team that wants to win with pitching and defense, having the best defensive club out there daily is a must.
We’re learning that does involve Schierholtz, who has certainly earned it.
All hail Nate the Great.