Casilla spikes in value to Giants bullpen

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Casilla spikes in value to Giants bullpen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. He doesnt have a beard like BrianWilson or Sergio Romo. He doesnt even have Jeremy Affeldts soul patch.

He might be the most under-publicized member of the Giantsbullpen. But Santiago Casilla is having the most impressive spring of thebunch.

Casilla has a 0.96 ERA in 10 games. Opponents are hitting.156 against him. Hes averaging 0.56 baserunners per inning.

Just another instance of a pitcher coming in hot after anoffseason in winter ball, right?

No, no, Casilla said, shaking his head. I didnt playwinter ball. First time in seven years. Escogido, they wanted me. I say no.

Casilla admitted his elbow didnt feel so good at the end oflast season, when he threw 52.1 innings over 49 appearances (and posted a 1.74ERA). Casilla also notched six saves in six chances, not all of them in boringfashion, after Wilson went down with an elbow strain in mid-August.

It doesnt sound like an unbearable workload. But rememberthat Casilla missed 48 games almost 30 percent of last season on thedisabled list because of right elbow inflammation. He struggled with fastballvelocity last spring and gave up a run on opening day before the Giants put himon the shelf. When he came back, he was used a ton.

I threw too much, Casilla said. But I like pitching alot. I wanted to be ready for it.

The Giants need Casilla to be ready. At least in the earlygoing, they arent likely to push Wilson for those four-out saves or send himout to pitch on a third consecutive day. Wilson still hasnt appeared onconsecutive days this spring, as the coaches and training staff move forward atan ultra-deliberate pace.

Casilla and left-hander Jeremy Affeldt are expected to fillin on those nights when Wilson is held back.

Affeldt said Casilla is primed for a big year. Nobody thisspring has sent more bats to bat heaven.

You know why? Its because he throws his curveball behindin the count, Affeldt said. Thats what makes him filthy. And you cant siton it, either, because youve got to be ready for 96 (mph).

Stuff-wise, you arent going to name another right-handerwith better stuff than him.

Casilla bounced around the As system for several yearsbefore joining the Giants as a minor league free agent prior to the 2010season. That previous winter, he had learned a spike curve (also called aknuckle curve) in the Dominican. It made all the difference."

I said, I need a different pitch, my slider is so-so,'" Casilla said. "One pitcher, Rodriguez, said to hold it like a spike curve. It's like how Pedro Martinez holds his curveball. In the bullpen, I throw it. I go to the game, I strike out two and I say, OK, it's mine.'"

His bat-breaking tendencies led to a scary moment onTuesday. He threw a pitch that the Angels Jorge Cantu fouled off. Cantus batshattered so violently that the barrel shard sailed into the stands behind thethird base dugout. The game stopped for nearly 10 minutes as fans and medicstended to a woman hit by the debris. She was bleeding and taken to a hospitalbut was OK.

Oh my God, not good, Casilla said. Its hard becauseyou lose your emotions in the game when you see somebody hurt. I say thank Godshe is OK.

Casilla, 31, has another reason to be grateful. Hisyoungest brother, Jose, is doing well in his rehab from Tommy John surgery toreconstruct his elbow.

Jose Casilla, 21, had a 1.16 ERA in 467 games as thecloser at Low-A Augusta in 2010. He began at Single-A San Jose last seasonbefore having surgery in June. Hes playing catch again and is expected to beready to resume his career in a few months.

Hes great, the elder Casilla said. Hes very happy.

Notes: Ex-Giants not getting much traction, not expected to return

Notes: Ex-Giants not getting much traction, not expected to return

SOMEWHERE IN THE AIR, United States — On the first day of the Winter Meetings, I discovered that my hotel room for the week was a few doors down from a section of rooms and suites dedicated to the Chicago Cubs. So either I have a lot of juice with Marriott or the Cubs have very little juice. 

They were a happy group as they came in and out, and for good reason. The Cubs are the reigning champions and they’re the heavy favorites going into 2017. Every other team at the Gaylord National Resort was chasing Theo Epstein and his guys. The Giants, after landing closer Mark Melancon, feel they have the firepower to compete with the Cubs. 

The Melancon move is the big one of the Giants’ offseason and it obscured just about everything else. Here are some other notes, quotes and rumors from five days at the Winter Meetings: 

--- Bobby Evans said the Aroldis Chapman deal ($86 million) came in right around where the Giants expected. The two sides never met in person, and while the Giants kept tabs on the Chapman market, he was always viewed as an unlikely choice. Part of that has to do with a 30-game suspension last season for a domestic violence incident. Evans said the off-field stuff was “not lost on us.” The Giants knew many of their fans were strongly opposed to a Chapman deal. 

“Our hearts and minds were really focused on one guy,” Evans said as he discussed the closer market. It was Melancon, and the Giants got the guy who will now head a bullpen that blew 30 saves during the regular season. 

Evans took some good-natured shots at that number, by the way. He pointed out that many of those “blown saves” came in the sixth or seventh innings and the Giants won a lot of those games. The more important number for the front office was ninth-inning blown saves that led to losses. The Giants lost nine such games, including five in September. 

“That’s the difference,” Evans said. “If you reduce that number to five or four, then that’s maybe the difference in your division.”

The Giants finished four games behind the Dodgers.

--- Joe Maddon said his biggest fear in the postseason was facing Johnny Cueto in Game 5.

--- Angel Pagan was not at the ballpark for the final game of the season. He had an injection in his injured back and was allowed to stay home to try and recover. The Giants told Pagan to prepare for a Game 5, but some team officials believe his postseason was probably over regardless of how far the Giants got. 

--- It was a little surprising, by the way, how little mention there was of Pagan and other Giants free agents. Pagan was briefly connected to the Orioles at one point but otherwise his name has not come up. There are no Gregor Blanco rumors, and nothing significant with Sergio Romo, Jake Peavy, Javier Lopez or Santiago Casilla. 

Giants people who have talked to Romo say he has at least a couple of offers and he’s confident he’ll find a good fit. Lopez is said to be headed for retirement unless an East Coast team (he lives in Georgia) makes a great offer. Peavy is said to be ready to fight for a job as a non-roster invitee in spring training. It seems the majority of the ex-Giants might have to go the non-roster route. Currently, none are expected to return to San Francisco. 

--- Gordon Beckham is technically a “Giants free agent” and several people in the clubhouse approacedh management to relay what a positive impact Beckham had in his week there. He is the kind of energetic, ball-busting presence that helps over a 162-game season, and everyone in the organization loved having him around, but they’re looking for power bats right now when it comes to the bench. 

--- Ramiro Pena is close to a deal to return as a non-roster invitee. The Giants will also add a catcher for Triple-A depth. They’re selecting from a group that includes former Dodgers and Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz. 

--- There will be new managers up and down the minor league system. The affiliates are expected to announce those choices soon. 

--- At the risk of wiping out a bunch of future "The Player to be Named Later has not been named" tweets, here's how it works: The Giants gave the Mariners a small list of prospects they'll watch in spring training, and they'll scout them and choose one player as the return for Chris Heston. It will not be a significant prospect. 

--- Under Armour will be the exclusive uniform provider of MLB starting in 2020, and all jerseys will have a small Under Armour logo on the chest. No exceptions, from the awful Diamondbacks jerseys to the Yankees pinstripes to the Giants. It was bound to happen eventually. The Giants have some of Under Armour’s most prominent baseball players, including Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik. 

--- The Giants never had any intention of pursuing a reunion with Pablo Sandoval. If they can add depth at third, they will, but for now Eduardo Nuñez is slated to be the opening day starter. Keep in mind, too, that Christian Arroyo will primarily play third base in the minors from now on. 

--- Bill Hayes, who was relieved of his duties as first-base coach, will stay with the big league staff. His exact role has not been determined. Roberto Kelly will not return in a different role. 

--- CSN did a bunch of one-on-one interviews this week, and two of them — Evans and Bruce Bochy — are available here as podcasts. If you’re a fan of the podcast, please consider hitting subscribe on iTunes. It’s good for the pod. 

--- In case you missed it: Here's an explanation of why the Giants are unlikely to add an expensive outfielder. The Giants currently have four players set for the WBC. Hensley Meulens will manage the Netherlands. Ryan Vogelsong helped Melancon choose the Giants. Bochy on if he has any postseason regrets. 

--- Melancon will be introduced at a 1 p.m. press conference on Friday. It will air on CSN Bay Area and you can stream it on this website. 
 

Wife of former Giants outfielder Andres Torres passes away

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Twitter/BengieMolina1

Wife of former Giants outfielder Andres Torres passes away

Former Giants outfielder Andres Torres lost his wife on Wednesday evening.

Soannie Torres passed away from cancer.

Andres played for the Giants from 2009 to 2011 and again in 2013.

During the Giants' World Series run in 2010, he hit .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI over 139 regular season games.

In the World Series against the Rangers, he batted .318 and hit a home run.

Torres was the 2010 winner of the Willie Mac Award, -- given annually to the Giants' most inspirational player.

To donate to the Soannie Torres Memorial Fund, click here.