Brandon Belt checks in from the Dominican Republic

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Brandon Belt checks in from the Dominican Republic

As Brandon Belt gets ready to wrap up his time in the Dominican Republic for winter ball, he took a few minutes to answer some questions via email. Some are baseball related, but I was also curious about the culture, his experiences, and of course the food. --------Hi Brandon! Just wanted to check into see how everything is going down at winter ball. The fans would love to hear from you.I started playing winter ball on October 14th and I'll be coming home on November 23rd. Everything is going good. I've been playing pretty well and I've gotten back to the place where I want to be hitting wise. I have been very fatigued though and I'm ready for some rest, but I want to make sure I finish strong.

Despite the fatigue, are you glad you went?Even though I am exhausted, I am glad that I came because it allowed me to face good competition against good pitchers. As I mentioned, it also allowed me to get back to that place where I want to be as far as hitting goes after a disappointing and inconsistent half year in the big leagues.Aside from baseball, what's been your favorite part?Apart from baseball, my favorite part about being down here in the Dominican is the scenery and going to the beach on the off days. It is absolutely beautiful down here. My hotel is right on the water. On the off days, all of the American guys either go to the beach or the pool which is awesome since for the past 5 or 6 years I haven't had any time to do that because of summer or pro ball. I have had the worst farmers tan over that time so my stomach, back, shoulders, and chest were thanking me for the sunlight.Any weird foods you've tried?The weirdest food I've tried down here has been fried plantains, which are pretty good. Other than that, I usually just eat any American food that I can get my hands on. We have a Champs Bar and Grill here at the hotel so that's where I get most of my food from. I will say that I have eaten some of the best steaks I have ever consumed in my life down here. I don't know why that is but they are delicious.Anyone in particular you've bonded with down there?I haven't bonded with anyone in particular down here I don't think, but I have bonded with just about all of the Americans. I got lucky. I'm on a team that has a lot of cool guys and we all became pretty good friends within the first couple of days. A few of their names are Cole Figeroua, Brett Wallace, Sam Narron, Mike Cervanak, David Carpenter, Everett Teaford, Graham Godfrey and Steve Clevenger.Has your wife been able to visit?My wife did get to come visit for 10 days which made the time go by a little faster. It was nice for her to come see what baseball is like in another country. The people down here have so much passion for the game which makes it even more appealing. We were able to spend a couple of nights on the beach while she was here so that was a lot of fun.Looking forward to getting back? What's on the menu for Thanksgiving?As much fun as I have had down here, I can't wait to get home and spend time with my friends and family. We have so much on the menu for Thanksgiving I can't even write it all down but my favorite is my Aunt Donna's cheese potatoes, my Aunt Nita's rolls, and of course the turkey and ham.

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.”