Angel Villalona is back in the dugout, back in uniform, eager for a new baseball life 3½ years after he was charged with murder in his native Dominican Republic.
The San Francisco Giants’ former top first-base prospect declined to address his legal past — specifically, exactly what happened.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” he said through an interpreter Friday. “I just want to concentrate on playing baseball. ... I’m here to get back to playing baseball. I’m thankful they gave me a second chance.”
Villalona was charged in the September 2009 death of a 25-year-old man at a bar. He was freed on bond that November after the family of the deceased asked a judge to drop the case, but Villalona was also stripped of his U.S. visa at the time.
“I never doubted myself. I never thought that [I couldn’t get back here]. I always thought I could do it, just like people here have confidence in me,” Villalona said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy envisions few issues or distractions with the arrival of Villalona, who has dropped from 290 pounds to 250 in preparation for his comeback.
The 22-year-old Villalona reported to spring training Friday and was undergoing a physical ahead of the first full-squad workout by the reigning World Series champions today.
Last spring, Villalona had his visa delayed for what the team was told were weight and health issues. Major League Baseball has already reinstated him from the restricted list.
“He’s coming in, I know it’s been a long journey for him,” Bochy said following Friday’s workout. “From what I gather, he’s really rededicated himself and is excited about getting another opportunity. We’re getting ready for a season, and he’ll be part of it.”
In fall 2011, Villalona dropped a lawsuit against the Giants seeking $5 million in damages after the team decided to reinstate him. He alleged the Giants kept him on the inactive list even though he had been cleared of homicide charges. Villalona had sought back wages and punitive damages.
When asked about the lawsuit Friday, he said, “I don’t know what happened there.”
Villalona received a $2.1 million bonus when San Francisco signed him at age 16 in August 2006. It was the biggest bonus the franchise had ever given to an amateur player at the time. San Francisco reportedly outbid the New York Yankees, Mets, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners for Villalona.
Zimmerman gets deal
The Washington Nationals and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann agreed to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
Terms of the deal announced Friday by the Nationals were not immediately known.
The 26-year-old Zimmermann had asked for $5.8 million, while the Nationals submitted $4.6 million. He made $2.3 million last season, when he went 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA last season, making 32 starts and pitching 195⅔ innings.
Washington avoided arbitration with all seven eligible players.
Kotchman joins Marlins
Former Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman signed a minor-league contract with the Miami Marlins and is expected to join their major-league camp today.
Kotchman hit .229 in 142 games last year for the Indians. He had 12 homers and 55 RBI. The left-handed batter is a career .262 hitter in nine major-league seasons.
Pujols employing caution
Albert Pujols is still not running, and he won’t be playing when the exhibition games begin Feb. 23, but the Angels’ slugger remains optimistic he’ll be good to go on Opening Day.
“I’m taking it easy and working my way into it,” Pujols said Thursday, the day before the team’s first full-squad workout. “My main goal is to be ready for Opening Day.”