McAnulty, who is expected to start in left field on Monday against the Astros, was on the Padres' Opening Day roster a year ago, though he said making the team out of Spring Training feels considerably different this time around.
"Last year, I got to go out there [during player introductions]," McAnulty said before Friday's exhibition game against the Angels at PETCO Park. "But I feel like I'm in a whole new situation this year. This year, I'm going to get a chance to play a lot more.
"It's going to be great ... A good start to a great year."
McAnulty, 27, made the team out of Spring Training based not only on his hot spring at the plate -- he hit .291 with four home runs and 13 RBIs -- but with his solid defense in the outfield.
McAnulty's big spring got him back on the Padres' radar following a forgettable 2007 season in which he hit .262 after being sent to Triple-A Portland in April -- a far cry from his career .301 batting average in the Minor Leagues. He also missed about a month with a right quadriceps strain.
McAnulty dedicated himself to getting in the best shape of his career in the offseason. He worked out three times a day, six days a week, adhering to a schedule of weight training and conditioning as well as baseball-related activities at his home in Oxnard, Calif.
McAnulty lost about 20 pounds and reported to camp in the best shape of his career.
"You never find out until you do it. I dedicated my whole offseason to working out and become the player these guys want me to be ... and the player I want to be, as well," he said. "Last year was just a down year, stuff like that happens. It's a question of if you can get back up or not."
McAnulty has done that in the eyes of his manager, Bud Black. McAnulty won't just be an option off the bench as he was at the beginning of last season. He'll likely start in left field against right-handed pitchers, which should get him plenty of at-bats.
"Coming into camp totally healthy ... he reaffirmed his place as a guy who believes he's ready to take on the challenge of being a Major League player," Black said. "We will see how it works out for him. It's well deserved."
Now it's McAnulty's turn. He's ready to show the Padres that six years after they drafted him out of Long Beach State that he's arrived and for good.
"I've been in this game too long to expect too many things. For me, I wanted to show these guys that last year was just one of those deals," McAnulty said. "I feel like I did that in Spring Training. I feel like they have the confidence in me. I showed I can play defense every day. I think good things are to come this year."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.