EXTRA BAGGS: Villalona optioned to Single-A, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Villalona optioned to Single-A, etc.

MESA, Ariz. Angel Villalona still doesnt have his workvisa to travel to the United States. If and when he arrives, hell find alocker waiting for him in minor league camp.

The Giants optioned Villalona to Single-A San Jose onFriday, which is more or less a procedural move. Even if he had been able toreport three weeks ago as scheduled, the Giants had planned to keep him inextended spring training while he works himself back into baseball shape.

Its anyones guess when (or if) the U.S. Consulate willclear the slugging first baseman to restart his pro career. He hasnt played a game since 2009,when he was given leave to return to the Dominican and was charged in the fatalshooting of Mario Felix de Jesus Velete in a bar in his hometownof La Romana.

The charges were dropped late last year,although Villalona reportedly paid a settlement to the victims family.

The Giants gave Villalona a 2.1 millionbonus as a 16-year-old in 2006.

Villalonas visa is being held up because he hasntdemonstrated his physical fitness to qualify as an elite athlete, according to what the Giants have been told. Its a hangup the club hasnt experienced before, and they've dealt with thousands of these applications.

My rather obvious speculation: The U.S. Consulate wants tojustify keeping a suspected murderer from entering the country, and this is howtheyre doing it.

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Sergio Romo didn't pitch Friday and he isn't on the list to pitch in either split squad Saturday. Manager Bruce Bochy told the Chronicle's John Shea that Romo's elbow is "a little cranky," but not believed to be a major deal.

Romo deals with elbow soreness almost every spring. At this stage, he'll need to bounce back quickly, though.

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You know your team wont have a good year when the springtraining program features the general manager on the cover. I guess the Cubsshould be used to it, though.

The Giants beat them 3-2 in a rather tidy afternoon affairat Ho Ho Kam Park, and Gregor Blanco is really slacking off. He was 0-for-3,dropping his average to .438.

RECAP: Surkamp goes four, Giants top Cubs 3-2

All kidding aside, Blanco does something every day to getnoticed. This time, it was a stomach-sliding catch on a sinking line drive incenter field.

Hes had quite a spring, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.Hes opened up everybodys eyes.

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Nice game for Eli Whiteside after he replaced Buster Poseyto start the bottom of the sixth. Whiteside hosed both Starlin Castro andAnthony Rizzo trying to steal third base.

BAGGARLY: Posey pleased after catching five, running bases

Whiteside has to show that his elbow is improved and hesthrowing better to bases in order to win the backup catcher competition withChris Stewart.

Why the Cubs were trying to steal third base twice whiletrailing by a run, I couldnt tell you. Maybe ask the GM.

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Emmanuel Burriss stole a base and was caught stealing once,although it really shouldnt have been scored that way. He tried to advance ona ball that got away from the catcher. By rule, he wasnt trying to steal butadvance.

No matter. The Giants lead the majors with 20 stolen basesthis spring. Theyve also been caught 13 times.

This is an area where Mr. Dwight Randolph Winn might be ofmajor assistance. Hes in camp as a special instructor and loving it. He toldme just putting the uniform on again is a thrill, and working with minorleaguers has been a great experience.

Winn always ran well during his playing career, but itwasnt until his later years that he turned into one of the most efficientbaserunners in the game. He was 25 for 27 in 2008. The following year, he was16 for 18. Even in 2010, when he struggled for the Yankees and Cardinals, heswiped six bases without getting nabbed.

Plus, hey, hes Randy Winn. They dont make them anyclassier.

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If not for Blancos catch, Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huffwouldve had the best defensive play of the game. Sandoval charged a slowroller and Huff made an expert pick of a wide, skipping throw. The Cubs had arunner on third base and two outs, so the play certainly saved a run.

Sandoval showed off some pretty impressive wheels whilescoring from second base on Huffs whistling single to left field, too. Theball was hit hard and reached the left fielder quickly, yet Sandoval still slidinto the plate well ahead of the balls arrival.

No, these do not look like your 2011 Giants.

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If you missed my announcement on Twitter earlier today, Imnow allowed to reveal that I achieved a lifelong goal of appearing as acontestant on Jeopardy! (Which explains my absence earlier this week.) Myepisode will air on July 20.

I cant tell you any more than that, except it went by in ablur and Ive never been so nervous in my life. And at least from what Iremember, it was a lot of fun.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.