CINCINNATI - The first bus to Great American Ball Park left the Phillies' downtown hotel at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Tyler Goeddel, eager to see if he would be in the lineup for the first time in his career, arrived in the lobby 20 minutes early. Instead of waiting for the bus, Goeddel decided to just walk to the game.
The rookie walked alone to the ballpark on the banks of the Ohio River, plugging in headphones to ease his nerves for the 15-minute trek. Shortly after his arrival, the lineup was posted. Goeddel was in it. The 23-year-old made his major-league debut, batting eighth and playing left field against the Reds.
"It's exciting," Goeddel said. "I was hoping to see it, but when you actually do, it brings some butterflies. It's great."
Monday, Goeddel's first day in the majors, was marked by the outfielder's jogging from the dugout when his name was called during pregame introductions to celebrate opening day. It was unreal, he said, to look up and see a stadium full of fans.
He joined the Phillies in December, when they drafted him with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. He must stay with the team for the entire season or he will be offered back to Tampa Bay.
Goeddel has never played above double A, but he spent the entire spring training getting a taste of major-league pitching. It was a great experience, he said. He learned a lot and knows what challenges await. The Phillies plan to use him in a left-field platoon with lefthanded hitter Cedric Hunter. Goeddel, a righthander, had a feeling he would be in the lineup against Reds lefthander Brandon Finnegan.
Manager Pete Mackanin said he was eager to see Goeddel play early in the season. The outfielder did not have an outstanding spring, with 14 hits in 56 at-bats. But the manager said Goeddel showed upside. He proved that he could catch up to a major-league fastball and played good defense. Mackanin said he expected Goeddel to hit for more power as he gets stronger.
"Guys that hit the ball to right field, like he does, that's a good start," Mackanin said. "As they go on, they learn how to pull the ball, and then all of a sudden you see a different player. The hardest part is being able to go to right field. Then you can learn to pull the ball a lot easier."
Cameron Rupp passed on advice to Goeddel that the Phillies catcher used in 2013 before his major-league debut: Don't look up at the upper deck. It's easy for a rookie to be in awe of the size of a big-league ballpark. Goeddel said he had never played in front of a third deck. And he planned to try his best to keep his head down.