Former murder suspect Angel Villalona gets travel visa, will be in Giants’ camp

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Once upon a time, Angel Villalona was a highly regarded first base prospect with the Giants. However, he hasn’t played in the United States since 2009 because of a murder charge in his native Dominican Republic. Nearly four years later, he’s going to get the opportunity to resume his career stateside.

According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Villalona has received a travel visa and will be in big league camp with the Giants this spring. He is expected to join the team next week in Arizona.

Villalona spent three months in jail after being accused of killing a 25-year-old man in a nightclub in September of 2009, but the charges were eventually dismissed following a $139,000 settlement with the victim’s family. After dropping a breach of contract lawsuit against the Giants, Villalona was added back to the 40-man roster last offseason and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. However, because he failed to obtain a visa, he spent last season in the Dominican Summer League.

Putting Villalona’s legal problems aside, the odds are against him reestablishing himself as a prospect, as his stock was on the decline even before the arrest. The 22-year-old compiled a terrible 235/45 K/BB ratio over his first three seasons in pro ball and had issues with conditioning.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.