SAN FRANCISCO – As Chicago Cubs outfielder Cole Gillespie was talking to a reporter about the departure of Alfonso Soriano, Soriano's image popped up on a wide-screen television in the visiting dugout at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Half the players in the clubhouse collected around the television to watch Soriano, freshly traded to the New York Yankees, taking his cuts against Tampa Bay in pin stripes.
After Soriano flew out, players dispersed to get ready for their game against the Giants. However, Soriano leaves a huge hole, as one might expect, in the Cubs' clubhouse, the lineup and the outfield.
"A guy like him, it's not just his on-field ability, it's the way he controls the clubhouse," Gillespie said. "Players look up to him, especially the younger Latin players. That's a big influence. … He has accomplished so much in the game, but he's a good person too."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said former Giant Nate Schierholtz will assume Soriano's clean-up spot, at least against right-handers. Schierholtz is hitting .444 during the current road trip with two home runs and eight RBIs. Schierholtz is also familiar playing one of the trickier right fields in the National League.
Sveum also said rookie sensation Junior Lake will play left field against right-handed pitching most of the time and then move to center against left-handers.
Schierholtz returns to S.F.: On July 31st of last year, the Giants traded Scheirholtz and minor league catcher Tommy Joseph to the Phillies for Hunter Pence and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin. Then in December Schierholtz signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with Chicago.
"Still got a lot of friends over there. A lot of good memories," said Schierholtz on his first visit to San Francisco as a Cub.
However, there is a question on how long Schierholtz will remain in Chicago. He has been the subject of trade rumors, particularly involving the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I feel fortunate to be here," Schierholtz said of being a Cub. "They believe in me, and I get the opportunity to play. I'm happy here."
He said he doesn't give much thought to getting traded, even though he has been with three teams within a year.
"If you go a week worried about it and you don't get traded it's a lot of worry for nothing," Schierholtz said.