As the San Francisco Giants begin official workouts Saturday morning with the first bullpen sessions of the spring, right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla will be missing. The 33-year-old has yet to obtain a visa, meaning that he’s stuck in the Dominican Republic indefinitely.
The situation is made all the more odd by the fact that Casilla’s younger brother, Jose, has received a visa and is in camp after receiving a non-roster invite. Santiago is joined in visa limbo by left-handed pitcher Jose De Paula, who has virtually no chance of making the big-league club but is still looking to make an impression after being claimed on waivers this winter.
It’s rather important that Casilla gets some good work in during spring training after being limited by a knee injury for a large chunk of last year. Casilla had a very effective second half following his return, and following that up with a solid spring performance would ease some of the concern that exists over the lack of stability in the Giants’ bullpen.
Considering past events, maybe the visa issue is a good omen for Casilla. In 2010, the hard-throwing righty had signed with the Giants as a minor-league free agent following a difficult stint with the Oakland Athletics which had seen him struggle with inconsistency and an embarrassing false identity scandal. As Casilla missed the beginning of spring training while stuck in the Dominican, he became an afterthought for many. But following his arrival, he was impressive, and though he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he went on to be called up on May 21 of that year and finish with a 1.95 ERA in 52 appearances for the World Series champion Giants.
Over 231 appearances spanning four years in a Giants uniform, Casilla has a 2.21 ERA and has been one of the Giants’ most consistent relievers. With that knowledge, it’s not the end of the world if Casilla misses a portion of the spring, but certainly the team wants him to get into camp as soon as possible. He can get all the throwing and conditioning work that he needs done at the Giants’ Dominican facility, but it’s important for him to get as much time as possible with the Giants’ pitching coaches and catchers, and obviously he needs to be in Scottsdale to get that.