Angel Villalona's visa not approved for medical reasons

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Angel Villalona's visa not approved for medical reasons

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Former top prospect Angel Villalona no longer faces murder charges in the Dominican Republic, but he will not report by Thursday's deadline for position players because his visa has not been approved by the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo, Giants vice president Bobby Evans said.

Villalona was deemed unfit to qualify for his P1 visa, which requires that he establish his status as an elite athlete, Evans said. It's the first time the Giants could remember a player's visa being flagged for that reason.

Giants officials would not disclose Villalona's physical issues, saying that it is a combination of conditioning and medical reasons "that he has dealt with in the past."

"We don't know if this delay is 24 hours or two weeks," Evans said. "We're hoping we can convince them he is in the condition he should be."

Villalona, 21, has not stepped foot in the U.S. since September, 2009, when he left Single-A San Jose on an approved visit to the Dominican while on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps. While there, he was charged int he fatal shooting of a man in a bar near his hometown of La Romana. Charges eventually were dropped after nearly two years, during which time Villalona was either in custody or under house arrest.

Major League Baseball removed Villalona from its restricted list late last year and the Giants added him to their 40-man roster in December in order to protect another team from claiming him in the Rule 5 draft. Players on the 40-man roster receive automatic invites to major league spring training; Villalona has a locker in Scottsdale Stadium with his uniform and workout clothes awaiting him.

Conditioning was an issue for Villalona before his career was put on hold. The thickly built power hitter received a 2.1 million bonus as a 16-year-old -- a franchise record at the time.

Villalona has been working out at the Giants' facility in the Dominican Republic and has been part of a conditioning program that includes baseball work, Giants trainer Dave Groeschner said.

"We're pleased with where he's at on the baseball side," Evans said. "His weight is down from where we started and it's close to what we were targeting. So we're disappointed by the delay. ... We're also hopeful we'll be able to cross this line."

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Chris Marrero hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and drove in four runs as the Giants rallied after Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs on two hits in the top of the first.

Marrero, a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Nationals trying to revive his career as a non-roster invitee, had an RBI single in the fifth.

Kevin Shackelford, the seventh Cincinnati pitcher, walked Orlando Calixte to open the ninth and Christian Arroyo blooped a single into left field before Marrero hit a line drive over the wall in left centerfield.

Patrick Kivlehan had a two-run single off Bumgarner in the first and Hunter Pence doubled in a run off Reds starter Rookie Davis. Davis, acquired from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal, is likely to open with Double-A Pensacola this year.

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy thought he might take it slow with Hunter Pence this spring. Pence, of course, had other ideas. 

Pence, who was held back by intercostal soreness during the first week of workouts, insisted on playing the Cactus League opener. He drove in the first Giants run of the new year with a double off the wall in the bottom of the first inning. 

“I just like to be out there Game 1,” Pence said. “It’s a message. It’s good to be out there. I have every intention of being ready to play every game of the season, so getting out there Game 1 is important to me.”

Bochy played plenty of regulars on the first day, but they were long gone when this one was decided in dramatic fashion. Chris Marrero, a non-roster invitee, hit a three-run walk-off homer as the Giants topped the Reds 6-4.

Marrero, 28, was one of the lead targets for a scouting staff that has made a habit of finding non-roster gems. The former first-round pick hit 23 homers for Boston’s Triple-A team and the Giants went after him hard when he became a minor league free agent. Marrero said his agent got a call within the first five minutes. It was an easy decision, in part because of the non-roster history here and in part because Marrero never got a call-up despite minor league success with the Red Sox. 

“If this team wants you, it’s a good thing,” Marrero said of the Giants. 

Marrero plays first base and the outfield, and while there are plenty of longtime big leaguers in camp, he certainly made a statement on the first day. The slider he hit went out to left in a hurry. 

“He’s a right-handed bat with power,” Bochy said. “He threw out good at-bats on the first day. We’re excited he signed with us. He’s going to get some at-bats here.”

THE ACE: Bochy gave Madison Bumgarner the option of skipping this game and making his debut next week, but Bumgarner — who typically doesn’t throw off a mound until he gets to camp — wanted to face hitters. “I thought it’d be good to get out there and get my feet wet,” he said. Bumgarner worked with Nick Hundley, who made some friends the first time out. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Clayton Blackburn delivered a bit of a message with two perfect innings: Don’t forget about me. 

Blackburn has been bumped down the depth chart by Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, but he was sharp while striking out three. “He was right on, wasn’t he?” Bochy said.

Blackburn was a big story last spring, coming off a season where he led the PCL with a 2.85 ERA. He had a 4.36 ERA last season and that led to some offseason changes. Blackburn said he threw off a mound 10-12 times before coming to camp last year, but he limited it to a handful of sessions this year, instead focusing on flat-ground throws into a net.

“You only have so many bullets,” he said, noting there was some fatigue last season. “You can’t waste them all in the offseason.”

Blackburn was called up last season but never got into a game. 

“There’s definitely a lot more hunger,” he said. “It’s always cool to get called up, but it was disappointing not to get in and not see any more time the rest of the year. It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the game.”

With a few more outings like Friday’s, Blackburn will get that second shot. His peripherals were just about the same across the board in 2015 and 2016, with the glaring difference being 12 additional homers in a hitter-friendly league. If he cuts back on the home runs, there’s no reason why Blackburn can’t get back in the mix here. 

NOTEWORTHY: Jimmy Rollins was 1-for-2 in his Giants debut, with a run scored … Wynton Bernard, the speedy outfielder plucked from Detroit’s system, scored on a double and two wild pitches … Jae-gyun Hwang didn’t have the best debut. He struck out twice and stumbled (for an error) on a slow roller to third ... Healthy Joe Panik had two hits in two at-bats ... Orlando Calixte played second and short and Bochy lit up when talking about his versatility. Calixte will see time in the outfield this spring, too. 

FAMILIAR FACES: It was 2010 Day at the ballpark, as Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina and Jeremy Affeldt were all on the field during BP. Molina and Affeldt were part of broadcast teams, but Sanchez was here with his under-9 travel ball team. Per Sanchez, the team is the best U9 team in Arizona. 

QUOTABLE: “We feed off each other and I know he feeds off of me. Hunter is a special cat. He’s the most positive person you’ll ever come across, but it’s hard because he plays with the team-first mentality and he puts himself second and sometimes that gets really hard on a person and can weigh a person down. I like to be there with him and bounce things off of him and try to keep him light and energetic. I’m not saying I take anything away from him, but don’t let him carry this big burden. Be that guy for him. He can be Batman, I’ll be Robin.” --- Mike Morse during an interview that airs on my podcast this week. You can stream it online here or download it on iTunes here.