Lakeland, Fla. — This isn’t exactly what Nate Schierholtz signed up for.
When the 32-year-old outfielder accepted a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp with the Tigers in December, the left field situation was relatively open. The thought at the time was Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins might platoon.
And Schierholtz, an eight-year veteran who just three seasons ago hit 21 home runs for the Cubs, thought he could give Collins a run for his money as the left-handed hitting part of that platoon. That was before owner Mike Ilitch got a hankering for an elite-level left fielder and the Tigers signed Justin Upton.
“At the time we signed Nate there was no expectation of signing Justin Upton,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was just one of those things. After Nate signed, we kind of changed direction and decided we wanted another big bat in the outfield.
“Unfortunately for him, it affected him. But things happen in spring training. You just don’t know how it’s going to play out.”
Schierholtz has been around long enough and rolled with enough punches in this game, he’s not easily deterred. He knows there will be a lot of eyes on him this spring, and if he can’t win a job in Detroit, maybe he can impress another club.
“That’s always part of the game,” he said. “Some things don’t work out like you expect or hope. For now I am a Detroit Tiger and I am excited about this opportunity. They’ve been a great team for years and I am all about winning.”
Schierholtz’s production and health fell off simultaneously in 2014 and after being released twice before last season, wound up playing in Japan.
“It was an interesting experience, to say the least,” he said.
However tough the adjustment to a new culture, it enabled him to get both his health and his game back in working order. He batted .250 with 10 home runs in 65 games for Hiroshima.
“I’m prepared,” he said when asked how he was approaching this camp. “I worked hard this offseason. I know what’s at stake. I just want to go out there and relax, stay healthy and have fun. I am really happy to be back here in the states.
“I feel like I am as prepared for spring training as I’ve ever been. Whatever happens, happens. I am prepared for anything. I know I can be a valuable player. We’ll just see how it plays out.”