David Vidal's season debut came a month and three days after Opening Day, but the Reds prospect made it worth the wait.
After working on his conversion to catching throughout April, Vidal went 4-for-4 with three doubles, a walk, five RBIs and a run scored on Tuesday night, leading Class A Advanced Bakersfield to an 11-6 win over visiting Inland Empire.
"I had goosebumps," he said. "I don't know why, but I'm like that, with goosebumps every first game of the season."
Vidal, who was a catcher at Miami Dade College when Cincinnati selected him in the eighth round of the 2010 Draft, spent his pro career predominantly at third base until Spring Training. That's when the Reds gave him a look behind the plate. They chose to keep him there, even though it required him to start the season at extended spring training in Arizona.
"They made their minds up with just a little more than two weeks before we broke camp," Vidal said. "It's not an easy position. Not that third base was a very easy position, but [at catcher] you have to do so much thinking. You have to control the whole game. Forget hitting, hitting comes after. It's not like riding a bike -- it's not that easy -- but it does help that I've done it before."
Even though hitting came after, the 24-year-old from Puerto Rico also used his time in Arizona to hone his offensive skills. In 2011, his first full season, he batted .280 with a .350 on-base percentage and 20 homers but hasn't matched those numbers since.
"It's been clicking since Spring Training. I've been going back to basics, going back to what I was doing in 2011," Vidal said. "I repeated the work day-by-day and worked with [Ryan] Jackson, the hitting coordinator, on drills that he has me doing. I was working on them in extended [spring training] every day."
In his first at-bat of the season, he smacked a two-out, two-run double in the first inning that forged a 4-4 tie.
"Oh, my God, it felt amazing," Vidal said. "When I finally saw one pitch, I got settled in and it felt so good to drive in those runs. Thank God, I got to be productive."
He was productive again in the third, lining an RBI single up the middle. An inning later, he worked a bases-loaded walk against 66ers starter Alex Keudell.
"To be honest, I was kind of just letting the pitcher pitch. He'd just intentionally walked a lefty to get to me, so I knew he wasn't going to give me a first-pitch fastball," Vidal said. "He was working in and out, and I was just trying to go with it and fight off some tough pitches and have a good at-bat."
Vidal doubled again in the sixth and whacked another RBI double in the eighth, this one into right field against reliever Jairo Diaz.
"The guy was throwing hard, they said he was throwing 100 [mph]," he said. "I just let him pitch.
"Sometimes I tend to get too aggressive and go too early. If I guy is throwing 90, I make it like he's throwing 95 because I'm rushing. So I was just thinking I'd take a pitch and let him throw. He gave me a 2-1 fastball and, luckily, I was able to drive it the other way."
Behind the plate, Vidal had three passed balls but none after the fifth inning.
"[In extended spring training], I was working mostly on that stuff, reading pitches, working on blocking balls and my hands," he said. "[Tuesday], there were a couple passed balls, but I'm learning day-by-day."
Reliever Sean Black (1-0) picked up the win, despite allowing two runs on three hits over 3 2/3 innings. Ben Klimesh, Jake Johnson and Carlos Gonzalez combined on four scoreless frames.
Angels No. 6 prospect Jose Rondon went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a walk and a run scored for Inland Empire.