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02/22/08 8:05 PM ET
Minor League Report: Giants minicamp
Top prospects get head start; Denker embraced by new team
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Spring Training doesn't begin until next week for most of the Giants' Minor Leaguers. But 48 of the organization's farmhands have gotten a head start on preparing for the season. Those four dozen players are participating in the Giants' Minor League minicamp, which opened last week. It's a mixture of players recovering from injuries, veterans who might fill in during the late innings of Major League exhibitions and, of course, "young guys you want to get started on the right foot," director of player personnel Bobby Evans said. Some of the Giants' top prospects are at the camp, including infielder Angel Villalona, the 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic who signed the largest bonus in club history two years ago; outfielder Wendell Fairley and infielders Nick Noonan and Charlie Culberson, prized selections from last June's First-Year Player Draft; and Kevin Pucetas, named Most Outstanding Pitcher in the South Atlantic League last year after finishing 15-4 with a 1.86 ERA. Munter the mentor: Scott Munter's gone from the Giants organization, but the soft-spoken right-hander left a lasting impression on reliever Billy Sadler, who's in his third big league camp. Sadler played in the Minors with Munter in each of the previous two seasons and watched him strive to return to the big leagues. Munter's now a non-roster invitee with Tampa Bay. "He was kind of my go-to guy with learning this game and the big leagues," said Sadler, who spent part of September 2006 with the Giants. "When he came back down to the Minor Leagues, he said, 'Billy, don't you ever forget where you came from.' I saw him push that much harder when he came back down to the Minors." Following this example, Sadler has worked to find the consistency that has eluded him. Control has been a problem for Sadler, who struck out 59 but walked 35 in 42 1/3 innings last year at Triple-A Fresno, besides recording a 5.95 ERA. Sadler believes that he's throwing more regularly from the same arm slot, which should help his command. "It's a huge challenge for every pitcher," he said. Feeling at home: The jarring experience of being traded was softened for infielder Travis Denker, who sparked Class A San Jose to the California League championship after being acquired from the Dodgers for Mark Sweeney on Aug. 26. "After being on a team for three weeks, I won a ring already," said Denker, who hit .480 with three home runs and seven RBIs in seven postseason games.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.