SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Speaking publicly for the first time since a 2009 murder charge, Giants first base prospect Angel Villalona wouldn't elaborate on his murky past.
"I'd rather not talk about it," Villalona said through a translator Friday. "I just want to concentrate on baseball."
For the first time in four years, Villalona can do just that. He arrived at Scottsdale Stadium to restart a career that stalled in September 2009, when he was charged with murder in a barroom shooting that left 25-year-old Mario Felix de Jesus Velete dead in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
Villalona was incarcerated or on house arrest for nearly two years, but the charges ultimately were dropped. According to reports in the Dominican, Villalona settled with the victim's family, preventing a civil suit.
Villalona, 22, had intended to return to the Giants a year ago, but his visa application was denied. He had applied for a work visa that requires the applicant to be an elite athlete, and, according to the Giants, Villalona was deemed "not in what (the U.S. consulate would) view as top physical or medical conditions."
On Friday, the now-250-pound Villalona said he weighed 290 pounds last year. He said he wasn't sure what happened with his visa application. He also refused to elaborate on a 2011 report that he sued the Giants for $5 million over a breach of contract.
"I don't know what happened there," Villalona said quietly.
The Giants gave Villalona a $2.1 million bonus, the largest they'd given an amateur player at the time, when he was 16. Villalona performed well while making his way through the low minors as a power-hitting teenager. He hit 17 homers for Low-A Augusta in 2008 at the age of 17, and he had nine homers in 74 games for the San Jose Giants in 2009 when he suffered a quadriceps strain. He was on family leave when the shooting occurred.
Villalona said he never doubted that he would return to playing baseball. He played winter ball in the Dominican and last year played in its summer league, hitting .303 with seven homers, 34 RBIs and a .927 OPS in 44 games, the majority of them at first base.
"I played very hard, but I am aware that here it is a totally different type of baseball," Villalona said. "I have to work double because of the competition."
Villalona said he is not sure if he will return to the San Jose Giants or if he will be moved to a higher level. For now, he is focused on finding a comfort level in a spring training clubhouse that includes many former teammates.
Since Villalona's departure, the Giants have won two World Series titles, and the players count chemistry as one of their greatest assets. In a clubhouse that banished Melky Cabrera last postseason for use of a performance enhancing drug, questions remain about how the Giants will react to having a teammate not far removed from a murder charge.
Manager Bruce Bochy insisted that Villalona will not become a distraction.
"He's coming in and I know it's been a long journey for him," Bochy said Friday. "But from what I gather, he's really rededicated himself. He's excited about getting another opportunity. We're getting ready for the season, and he'll be part of it."
Bochy said he did not feel the need pull Villalona aside for any sort of conversation outside of the normal back-and-forth during spring training.
The Giants intend to treat Villalona like any other member of camp, which is exactly what he was hoping for as he set foot on American soil for the first time in four years.
"I'm thankful that they gave me a second opportunity," Villalona said.
"I was trying to catch you!" Pagan said.
Lincecum's hair, of course, has changed. But not much else around the clubhouse has, and that's just the way Pagan wanted it.
"I think that's the best thing we have," Pagan said when asked about the Giants bringing everyone back. "The chemistry is the same. There are some additions, but the atmosphere is going to be the same. The way we got along last year, it doesn't get any better than that.
"It's going to be a big key."
Pagan will again be a key for the lineup, and the Giants hope that's the case for four more years. They gave him a $40 million deal, but Pagan was forceful when talking about the fact that the money won't change him.
He said he went through the same offseason workouts as he always has and from all appearances came into camp in his usual tiptop shape. Pagan's arrival set off a flood of position player appearances; Marco Scutaro checked into camp later in the morning, and Joaquin Arias arrived in the afternoon.
The Giants will hold their first full-squad workout Saturday.
Right-hander Ramon Ramirez could arrive in the next day or two after having problems with his work visa, according to Bochy.