As the Giants see it, the strapping 22-year-old who walked into camp Friday and checked out his No. 74 uniform is not Angel Villalona, alleged murderer, but Angel Villalona, first-base prospect.
"I know it's been a long journey for him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "From what I've heard, he really dedicated himself to coming back. We want to get ready for the season, and he is part of that."
For the first time since September 2009, Villalona will step onto a baseball field in the United States when he joins the Giants' first full-squad workout Saturday.
Villalona was 19 and playing for Class A San Jose that year when he got hurt and was granted permission to visit his mother in the Dominican Republic. While there, he was arrested in the shooting death of a nightclub patron and charged with murder.
Prosecutors dropped the charges for lack of evidence after Villalona reportedly paid the victim's family $139,000. The Giants reinstated him to the 40-man roster in 2011 and invited him to camp last year, but the United States would not give him a visa, reportedly saying he did not qualify because he was so out of shape he was not considered a "world-class athlete."
In a 10-minute news conference, with Giants media-relations staffer Erwin Higueros translating, Villalona alternately said he lost 40, then 50 pounds since then. Indeed, he looked to be in decent shape.
Angel Villalona returns to baseball
San Francisco Chronicle | Feb 16