Refreshed Huff hits first homer of the spring

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Refreshed Huff hits first homer of the spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Aubrey Huff hit his first home run ofthe spring Monday night, which could be a hopeful sign as he tries to turnaround a forgettable run in 2011.Then again, Huff led the team with six homers last spring. Thattotal was tied for most in the Cactus League, too. So choose your talismanscarefully.Its more about the feeling than the result for Huff, and hesays hes feeling much more refreshed -- especially between the ears.

Yeah, I feel great, he told me. Just let last year goand come out and try to have some fun again. Up there, I feel comfortable andrelaxed. Its spring training, but the goal is to bring that feeling into theseason.Last year, Huff was the Giants only starting positionplayer to remain healthy all season. Hard to believe, but he was the only Giantto post enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.Not that he finished anywhere close.Huffs average fell from .290 to .246. His on-basepercentage plummeted even steeper as he drew barely half as many walks as theprevious season. In 2010, his .385 OBP was the 10th best in the NL.Last season, his .306 OBP ranked as the eighth worst.He was swinging at everything, and not to any positiveeffect.I wasnt getting into a loading position, Huff said. Myfirst movement was forward. Ive been working on getting a nice load back. Forsome reason, I lost it.By midseason, I was making so many changes. Its hard toget your front foot down when youre doing all that in the middle of a season.Im trying to work through that this spring, and so far, its working out.Huff's bat is looking quick so far. On Sunday, he hit what went down as a single in the box score -- but only because his line drive off the base of the right field wall was hit so hard.Huff is off to a good start in his competition with Brandon Belt and Brett Pill, both of whom will get plenty ofinnings this spring to show their readiness.In three games, Huff and Belt have started in the same lineup twice. Both times, Huff was at first base. Belt was either the designated hitter or played left field. Manager Bruce Bochy cautioned not to read anything into that, saying Huff will play plenty of left field this spring, too.(Belt is swinging it well, too. He hit a shot Monday night that died in the cooler air and was tracked down by Milwaukee center fielder Jordan Schafer after a long sprint. The ball likely would've been halfway up the berm in the daytime.)
But while unspoken, it's clear the first base position is Huffs to lose.Aubrey is part of this, Bochy said earlierthis spring. We need him.

Former top prospect Andy Marte dies from car accident in Dominican Republic

Former top prospect Andy Marte dies from car accident in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte died early Sunday from a traffic accident in his native Dominican Republic.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when the Mercedes Benz he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.

Marte, a 33-year-old infielder, played for several Major League teams, including Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona, and was most recently playing in the Korean league.

Marte was playing in the Dominican winter league with the Aguilas Cibaenas team.

"We have awoken this Sunday with this sad news that we have lost a special being," club president Winston Llenas said in a statement about Marte.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the final month of his time with the Giants, it became clear that Santiago Casilla and the team would part ways. On Friday, Casilla confirmed that he never had the opportunity to return. 

On a conference call to announce a two-year deal with the Oakland A’s, Casilla said he “would have been happy to return to the Giants, but I never got an offer from them. I understood.”

Casilla said he had several opportunities to go elsewhere and close, mentioning the Milwaukee Brewers as one interested team. Casilla signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the A’s, who likely won’t need him to pitch in the ninth. The Brewers went on to bring in Neftali Feliz for one year and $5.35 million; he is expected to close. 

“I preferred to return to the Athletics because that’s where my career started,” Casilla said through interpreter Manolo Hernández Douen. “And I’m very excited.”

Casilla spent the first six years of his career with the A’s before crossing the bridge and becoming a key figure in three title runs. In seven seasons in San Francisco, he posted a 2.42 ERA and saved 123 games. Casilla had a 0.92 ERA in the postseason, but he was stripped of a prominent role in the weeks leading up to the 2016 playoffs. 

Casilla, 36, blew nine saves before being pulled from the ninth inning. He appeared just three times in the final 14 regular season games and just once in the playoffs. He did not take the mound in Game 4 of the NLDS, watching as five other relievers teamed up to give back a three-run lead. 

That moment stung Casilla, and it affected Bruce Bochy, too. The Giants struck quickly in December to bring Mark Melancon in as their new closer, but at the Winter Meetings, Bochy said he would welcome Casilla back in a setup role. 

“He’s a great team player (and) teammate,” Bochy said. “(I) certainly wouldn’t rule it out because he still has great stuff. And he had some hiccups there in that closing role, but I would take him anytime.”

As it turned out, that opportunity was never there for Casilla. The Giants didn’t make another move after the big deal with Melancon, and they’ll rely on younger arms to record most of the outs in the seventh and eighth. Casilla said he’s not bitter about the way it all ended. 

“I have left that in the past,” he said. “It’s a new year, it’s a new year. I have left this in the past.”