MESA, Ariz. (AP) — As Santiago Casilla awaits his final paperwork to depart the Dominican Republic and rejoin the Oakland Athletics, he has been speaking with young baseball players at the team’s academy in his home country.
And keeping up with his throwing program so he is ready to go once he gets to the Arizona desert.
A’s manager Bob Melvin is hopeful that could be “any day” for the right-handed reliever, who has been delayed by visa issues — a common occurrence in the Dominican Republic for baseball players and something he regularly dealt with during his first stint with Oakland. Casilla didn’t sign his $11 million, two-year contract with the A’s until Jan. 20, so there wasn’t much time between then to secure a visa before pitchers and catchers reported to the team’s complex in Mesa on Feb. 14.
“If we get into games and he’s not here yet I might get a little antsy. At this point, I’m not,” Melvin said before Tuesday’s workout. “I’m not worried about him. It’s a long spring. ... So I’m not that concerned with the length of spring here yet and his workload.”
In fact, closer Sean Doolittle has yet to throw a bullpen and Melvin is easing in other veteran relievers such as John Axford. The A’s open Cactus League play Saturday against the defending champion Chicago Cubs at nearby Sloan Park in Mesa, but Melvin said he would like to have Casilla throw at least a few times off the mound before he pitches in games.
The 36-year-old Casilla has spent his entire big league career with the Bay Area teams, including his initial six seasons with Oakland and the past seven on the San Francisco Giants. He helped them win World Series titles in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14 before losing his job as closer last season.
He went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season after posting a 4-2 mark with a 2.79 ERA and a career-best 38 saves in 2015. Yet Casilla blew an NL-high nine saves and manager Bruce Bochy didn’t call on him in the ninth inning in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Cubs last fall. Five San Francisco relievers squandered a three-run lead by surrendering four runs as Chicago celebrated a 6-5 win at AT&T Park.
Bochy — also waiting on ace right-hander Johnny Cueto’s late arrival from the Dominican Republic — is confident Casilla will bounce back in 2017 across San Francisco Bay.
“Oh, he’ll have a good year,” Bochy said. “He’s got good stuff. That guy’s got all the weapons. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll do well.”