Rededicated McAnulty aims for rebound

Rededicated McAnulty aims for rebound

PEORIA, Ariz. -- He's still the same guy, but Paul McAnulty arrived in Peoria this week with what appears to be a new body and an entirely new perspective for the 2008 season.

"I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in," he said. "I feel like no one can touch me."

McAnulty, an outfielder on the Padres' 40-man roster who made the team out of Spring Training a year ago, is in Peoria ready to put an unfortunate 2007 season behind him, as he attempts to again win a job.

It won't be easy, as the Padres certainly have plenty of candidates for not only the job in left field, but for what figures to be one or possibly two spots off the bench.

But McAnulty, a career .301 hitter in the Minor Leagues, isn't necessarily interested in merely winning a backup job, though.

"I'm not trying to make the team as a pinch-hitter," said McAnulty, who arrived a week before the rest of the Padres' position players. "My goal is to become a starter."

To that end, McAnulty put behind him a tough 2007 season in which he injured his right knee toward the end of Spring Training. He had only eight at-bats over the first two-plus weeks in April with San Diego before being optioned to Triple-A Portland, where he hit .262.

"The year didn't go like he wanted it," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He proved that he could play, but he got caught in a spot where we decided to go with Sledgie [Terrmel Sledge], and when you make that decision, you give the at-bats to the guy that you have decided on.

"He never really got on track."

To ensure that wouldn't happen again, McAnulty dedicated himself to getting in the best shape of his career in the offseason. He worked out three times a day -- that's right, three times a day -- six days a week, an arduous mix of weight training, conditioning, riding the stationary bike and, of course, hitting, at his home in Oxnard, Calif.

"I worked my [tail] off and it's going to show," said McAnulty, who estimates that he lost 20 or so pounds. "My main goal was to get back to 100 percent. I feel I can help this club tremendously."

McAnulty joked this week that his workout at the Peoria Sports Complex was actually a lot tamer than the one that he put himself through, leaving him with more free time than he knew what to do with.

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McAnulty, 26, has carefully watched what he has eaten since October and has somehow had the stomach to throw down a blue-green algae energy drink that provides nutrients that he might otherwise be missing.

Can he realistically win a job with the Padres? McAnulty is out of Minor League options, which means he might have greener pastures with another organization if the Padres opt to go with prospect Chase Headley or non-roster invitees Jody Gerut or Jeff DaVanon as their backup outfielders to Scott Hairston, Jim Edmonds and Brian Giles.

Of course, if McAnulty forces the team's hand with a strong performance this spring like he did a year ago, anything could happen.

After all, the guy can hit. He has at every level.

"The thing with Mac, if there's one guy who, as they say, can fall out of bed and get a hit, he's that kind of guy," Black said. "Other guys need games played or a lot of repetitions, but he's one of those guys that can hit."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.