Nats sign veteran Schierholtz to minor-league deal

Nats sign veteran Schierholtz to minor-league deal
August 18, 2014, 1:15 pm
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Updated at 6:25 p.m.

The Nationals signed Nate Schierholtz to a minor-league contract, and though the veteran outfielder will report to Class AAA Syracuse, there's a good chance he'll find his way to Washington in short order to bolster the club's struggling bench for the stretch run.

Schierholtz, who was designated for assignment by the Cubs two weeks ago, will join the Chiefs' roster on Tuesday and get some minor-league at-bats before the Nationals decide how close he is to big-league-ready.

"We're going to see where he's at when he gets there tomorrow, physically," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We know when was the last time he played. We're going to gauge how he feels and how he looks, and we'll get him as many at-bats as he needs until we bring him up."

Schierholtz hit just .192 with six homers, 33 RBI and a .541 OPS in 99 games for the Cubs, going 3 for his last 41. The 30-year-old, though, is only one season removed from hitting .251 with 21 homers and a .770 OPS for Chicago, production that made him a trade target for the Nats in July and August 2013.

"We tried to get him a couple of times via the trade route, and it just didn't work out," Rizzo said. "But he was available, and with Nate McLouth on the shelf for longer than we expected, we thought it was a good pickup."

Schierholtz's acquisition was a direct reflection of McLouth's recent right shoulder injury, which it appears will keep him sidelined longer than originally expected. McLouth was due to undergo an enhanced MRI on Monday, with club officials concerned there could be a tear in the shoulder.

"He's not improving as much as he'd like to, I know that," manager Matt Williams said. "That's why we're doing this secondary test, to make sure everybody understands exactly what's going on."

Schierholtz has enjoyed considerable success as a pinch-hitter in his career; he sports a .289 batting average and .763 OPS in 182 plate appearances over eight seasons with the Giants and Cubs. Though he was only 2-for-19 as a pinch-hitter this season, Schierholtz was seen as an upgrade for a Nationals club that has struggled to get consistent production from its bench this year.

"It was by design that we went after him," Rizzo said. "It's a left-handed bat that has experience as a pinch-hitter. He's had great success as a pinch-hitter. He can play all three outfield positions above average. He throws well. He still runs well. He's got some pop from the left side of the bench. And as you've seen by our bench, we're a little short on left-handed power bats off the bench."

In other news, Syracuse right-handers Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett both were placed on the 7-day DL on Monday, though neither pitcher's injury is considered serious. According to a Nationals spokesman, Treinen slept on his pitching arm funny and will return after missing only one start, while Barrett is dealing with minor back spasms.

Both Treinen and Barrett have been significant contributors for the Nationals this season and are expected to be among the club's September call-ups.