UPDATED, 6:13 p.m.: The Nationals signed veteran outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a minor-league contract Monday. Schierholtz cleared waivers last week after the Cubs designated him for assignment August 6.
The 30-year-old hit .192 in 99 games for the Cubs, a year after accumulating a career-high 116 hits in 137 games with Chicago. Whether as a September call-up or sooner, Schierholtz gives the Nationals a left-handed option off the bench, one who has hit .289 in more than 100 career pinch-hit at-bats.
“If you go back to last year, Nate had a fantastic season,” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said. “He’s got a lot of experience pinch-hitting. Really good outfielder, he’s got some speed, got a good arm.”
Down the stretch, Schierholtz could be an option to fill in for fellow veteran Nate McLouth, another experienced lefty bat. McLouth is getting a second opinion on the chronically uncooperative shoulder that sent him to the disabled list August 4. Williams acknowledged the move to sign Schierholtz was made in part to give the Nationals “options” if McLouth does not improve.
“He was out there and available, and given his history and the way he’s played, it was the logical thing to do,” Williams said. “So potentially, that could play into the rest of our season. At this point we don’t know, but you have to make sure you’re covered and you have options.”
The Nationals currently have six left-handed hitting options on their 25-man roster, though Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span are not generally options off the bench, and either Danny Espinosa and Asdrubal Cabrera is also generally in the starting lineup. Jose Lobaton is the only other left-handed option for Williams for the pennant push, particularly if McLouth is sidelined for an extended period.
“What we don’t have right now is that quote unquote lefty off the bench,” said Williams, who said Schierholtz was a fit in part because of his experience as a pinch hitter. “We have Danny (Espinosa), but Danny plays a lot, too. If we’ve got Asdrubal on the bench, we’ve got a switch hitter. If we’ve got Danny on the bench, we’ve got a switch hitter, but we’re a little right-handed heavy.”
Schierholtz last played in a major league game Aug. 5, and is hitless in his last 17 at-bats, dating back to July 28.