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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.