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."

Sandoval drops pounds, gains playing time

MESA, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval has proven that he would rather play baseball than eat.

Sandoval informed Giants manager Bruce Bochy of his desire to play every day, since that would supplement his physical conditioning. Bochy responded with a challenge to Sandoval, whose weight has remained a perennial issue: Shed pounds, and you'll play.

"We had a deal," Bochy said Sunday. "He had to get to a certain area before I would play him. To his credit, he did."

Bochy would not specify Sandoval's target weight, current weight or the amount he was asked to lose. Nevertheless, Bochy said, "He's doing what I've asked, and that's drop a few pounds."

As a result, Sandoval is San Francisco's only projected regular to appear in the field in the team's first two exhibitions. First baseman Brandon Belt also has played in both games but was the designated hitter in Saturday's Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

Sandoval, named the Most Valuable Player in the Venezuelan Winter League postseason, has stayed hot at the plate. He's 3-for-5 in the Giants' first two Cactus League exhibitions.

The third baseman's next challenge will be maintaining a decent weight while he's performing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, away from the influence of the Giants' athletic training staff.

Worth noting

• Gary Brown continued to perform impressively in the Giants' 4-3 exhibition loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, making two catches in center field where the swirling winds forced him to adjust the paths he took toward each fly ball drastically. "He's a gifted outfielder," Bochy said. "He has good speed and gets good reads on the ball."

• Competition for what probably will be one vacancy in the bullpen already has become more intense. Though the two-game sample size is small, Giants relievers have allowed one run and nine hits in 16 innings. "I was really concerned about where the pitchers would be as far as command. It's been pretty good," Bochy said.

• Of the 69 players in camp, 11 are appearing in their first Major League camp: right-handers Brett Bochy, Edward Concepcion, Edwin Escobar, Chris Heston and Jose Valdez, left-handers Michael Kickham and Josh Osich, and infielders Brock Bond, Adam Duvall, Ricky Oropesa and Kensuke Tanaka.