Palmetto's Granden Goetzman 'a new man' one year after being drafted by Rays

BRADENTON -- It was a year ago that Granden Goetzman got the phone call of his dreams.

Weeks after graduating from Palmetto, Goetzman was the Tampa Bay Rays' first pick of the second round during last year's amateur baseball draft. Not long after, in one of the offices overlooking Tropicana Field, Goetzman made the union official and signed with the team he grew up supporting.

A year later, Goetzman is just as excited.

And, more importantly, much more prepared.

"I'm a new man this year," Goetzman said.

It wasn't that Goetzman did anything wrong last summer, when he appeared in 25 games for the Rays' Gulf Coast League team. But the jump from prep baseball to professional baseball is a major one, and Goetzman, who was slowed by a groin injury last year, acknowledged the learning curve was steep.

"I was very uncomfortable and overwhelmed," said Goetzman, on outfielder who hit .173, stole six bases and drove in eight runs with the GCL Rays. "Now I know the pitching I'll be facing, my teammates, the coaches. ... I feel very comfortable playing baseball."

Goetzman spent the spring working in the team's minor-league camp and has spent the last two months in extended spring training, which ends this week. He isn't sure where he is headed, but Goetzman said it could be with the Rays' Advanced Rookie League team in Princeton, W.Va., or their short-season Single-A affiliate in Hudson Valley.

"Wherever I go, I want to be the MVP of that team," Goetzman said, "and the perform the best that I can

and maybe win a championship."

He'll be attempting to do so with a different stance, one that doesn't include the front-foot tap Goetzman used throughout high school.

"I'm more open than I was before, but nothing too dramatic," he said of his stance. "Just wanted to make it as simple as possible -- see the ball, hit the ball.

"They've got great coaches in the system."

It's a system Goetzman wants to climb. And a year after he was drafted, Goetzman is ready to make a serious run up the Rays' ranks.

"I've matured as a person, I've learned some things, and I've got some older teammates who I've learned from," he said. "I've just picked certain things out, how to act on and off the field. But the biggest thing is this year, I'm more comfortable."