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Happy with Cubs, Schierholtz's heart in SF

MESA, Ariz. -- Nate Schierholtz is poised to seize upon a fresh opportunity this season as the Chicago Cubs' likely Opening Day right fielder.

But after rooting for the Giants while growing up in the Bay Area and spending his first 9 1/2 professional seasons with the organization, Schierholtz admitted Sunday that part of his soul will remain with the orange and black.

"San Francisco," he said, "is a place I'll always call home."

Shipped to Philadelphia for right fielder Hunter Pence at last year's Trade Deadline, Schierholtz watched the Giants' march to the World Series last fall on television from his rented home in Orinda, which was his in-season residence until he departed.

Schierholtz admitted that watching his former teammates roll through October was "a little different," though he added that "it was really fun to watch. I was rooting for the guys." He also couldn't help but notice the enthusiasm for the Giants that gripped the Bay Area.

"It just shows how special it is to play there and how great the fans are," said the 29-year-old Schierholtz, who noted that he gave the Giants his ring size for his World Series bauble a month ago.

Schierholz hit .273 in 37 games with Philadelphia but wasn't tendered a 2013 contract, leading to his signing a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Cubs on Dec. 21.

"This team's young and I think we have a chance to win quick," said Schierholtz, who received offers from several other teams but was sold on the Cubs after chatting with manager Dale Sveum. "It felt like the right fit for me here and I like the way things are going so far."