Cedric Hunter's long journey back to the Major Leagues took years of perseverance, but the 28-year-old Phillies outfielder and career minor-leaguer wanted to make one thing clear.
"Everybody is giving me congrats and everything, and I am happy about that. But in the back of my mind this is just a beginning," Hunter said before the Phillies departed for Monday's opener in Cincinnati against the Reds. "I have to really go out and prove myself and show that I am ready to be here."
Hunter was signed by the Phillies as a minor-league free agent and is expected to see significant playing time.
"To be in a situation where I am playing every day just like I was in the minor leagues, it is awesome," he said.
Hunter's only other Major-League stint came in 2011 with the San Diego Padres, when he appeared in six games and had four at-bats.
He is a career .288 minor-league hitter and batted .283 last season for the Atlanta Braves triple-A Gwinnett Braves team.
Hunter, who can play all three outfield positions, said he signed with the Phillies because he thought it presented a realistic opportunity to make the roster.
Through 1,151 career minor-league games, he conceded it took a great deal of resolve to keep pursuing his dream.
"I definitely had my doubts, but I felt like God put me in those situations to make me better," Hunter said.
A day after being one of four Phillies reassigned to the minor leagues, righthander Andrew Bailey said he is focused on quickly returning to the big leagues.
A product of South Jersey's Paul VI High, Bailey, 31, was among four players the Phillies reassigned to the minor leagues on Friday night, joining catcher J.P. Arencibia, outfielder Will Venable and righthander Ernesto Frieri.
"I have to go out and pitch and stay healthy, and as long as I stay healthy I will be up for sure," said Bailey, who confirmed that he has a May 1 opt-out date.
The Phillies set their opening-day 25-man roster after Saturday's 6-5 win over their top prospects at Citizens Bank Park.
Here is the roster:
Pitchers (12): Right-handers Jerad Eickhoff, Jeanmar Gomez, Jeremy Hellickson, David Hernandez, Dalier Hinojosa, Charlie Morton, Hector Neris, Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez, and left-handers Brett Oberholtzer, James Russell and Daniel Stumpf.
Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp.
Infielders (7): Andres Blanco, Emmanuel Burriss, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf.
Outfielders (4): Peter Bourjos, Tyler Goeddel, Odubel Herrera and Cedric Hunter.
Among the injured players, righthander Michael Mariot (right ankle strain) and outfielder Cody Asche (right oblique strain) were placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 25. Three players placed on the 60-day DL were left-handers Matt Harrison (back/disc injury) and Mario Hollands (Tommy John surgery) and outfielder Aaron Altherr (left wrist surgery).
The Phillies are also at 40 players on their 40-man roster.
After losing to the Phillies, 19-4, on Thursday in Reading, the organization's top prospect had a much better showing in the rematch. The Phillies needed a three-run ninth inning rally in Saturday's win over the Futures before 20,181.
Darin Ruf hit a two-run double, and Cesar Hernandez's walk-off RBI single ended matters. Left fielder Nick Williams, one of the Phillies top prospects who will begin the season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, hit a fifth-inning home run to right field off Morton and went 2 for 2 with a double and three RBIs.
The 22-year-old Williams, who was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, could be at Citizens Bank Park permanently sometime this season.
"It felt great to be able to do this in front of the home fans and front office," Williams said.
The top three pitchers in the Phillies rotation are opening day starter Hellickson, followed by Nola and Morton.
Mackanin suggested that Eickhoff and Velasquez will be the No. 4 and 5 starters, respectively.
"I think we're going to go Eickoff as No. 4 and Velasquez," Mackanin said. "We haven't penciled it in, but that is probably the way we are going to go."