Progress towards return for Giants' Villalona


Progress towards return for Giants' Villalona

Sept. 2, 2011


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Mychael Urban

SAN FRANCISCO -- The strange saga of Giants prospect Angel Villalona took another turn Friday, and for the first time since he was charged with murder in his native Dominican Republic in November 2009, it was a positive turn.According to Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans, Villalona, who signed for what was then a franchise record (for an amateur) 2.1 million bonus as a 16-year-old in 2006 but has been on baseball's restricted list since the murder charge was levied against him at age 19, is eligible for re-instatement and likely to soon report to the club's academy in the Dominican Republic."Honestly, it's hard to say exactly what this means right now because there's been so little contact with Villalona and the terminology, legally, in the Dominican isn't exactly what it is here," Evans told during a brief one-on-one in the AT&T Park press box as the Giants hosted the Diamondbacks in the opener of a crucial three-game series. "So it's difficult to decipher, even for us, exactly what's happened and the timeline. But right now the news is that he's eligible to be re-instated."The next news will come when Angel is, in fact, re-instated, and the next news will be when he reports to the academy, and then when we see exactly what we have." Villalona was charged with murdering a 25-year-old man outside a bar in La Romana, D.R., while on the disabled list of the Single-A San Jose Giants and on a team-approved visit home. He spent three months in jail before being released on bail, and it was widely reported after his release that he'd reached a financial settlement -- the San Francisco Chronicle reported the sum as being just under 139,000 -- with the family of the murder victim.Speculation at the time was that the settlement was paid in exchange for the family dropping the charges against Villalona, and the family did, indeed, ask prosecutors to drop them. The prosecution refused to do so, however, and the charges remained pending until sometime this summer, when they were dropped for lack of evidence. Shortly thereafter, Villalona filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Giants, demanding more than 10,000 in back pay and a reported 5 million in punitive damages. The suit, Evans suggested, will be resolved before Villalona is asked to report to the team's island academy, likely at the end of September.
REWIND: Former prospect Villalona suing Giants for 5 million
Evans conceded that the entire process has been confusing at times to the organization, largely because it's played out in another country."It's obviously something we've taken very seriously as an organization, but it's been difficult at times to really get a handle on," he said.Villalona, 21, enjoyed the best of his three seasons as a professional in 2008, swatting 17 homers with 64 RBIs and a .263 batting average over 123 games with Augusta (Ga.), San Francisco's low Single-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League.

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.