'Like coming home': Casali rejoins Giants on 1-year deal

May 16th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- With their top two backstops on the injured list, the Giants replenished their catching depth by reuniting with an old friend.

, who served as Buster Posey’s backup during the Giants’ 107-win campaign in 2021, returned to San Francisco on a one-year Major League deal on Wednesday, giving the club an experienced veteran to slot behind the plate while Patrick Bailey (concussion) and Tom Murphy (left knee sprain) work their way back from injuries.

Casali, 35, inked a Minor League deal with the Marlins over the offseason, but he was released at the end of Spring Training and considered transitioning to coaching or front-office roles. He decided to keep playing after finding a new opportunity with the Cubs, who sent him to Triple-A Iowa to start the season.

Casali batted .362 with a 1.040 OPS, two home runs and 11 RBIs over 23 Minor League games before earning another shot with the Giants, who immediately inserted him into their starting lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against the Dodgers at Oracle Park. San Francisco optioned Jakson Reetz to Triple-A Sacramento and transferred Murphy to the 60-day IL to clear spots on the 26- and 40-man rosters for Casali.

Casali admitted that he got a bit emotional on Tuesday night after his agent told him to pack up his stuff and hop on a flight from Syracuse to San Francisco.

“I think I probably shed a tear,” Casali said. “Coming back here is like coming home. I had some of the best years of my professional baseball life here. Some of my best friends are still here. Not many people get to do it again, so I’m just very, very thankful.”

Casali stayed up late to break the news of his deal to Mike Yastrzemski, his fellow Vanderbilt alum and offseason training partner.

“He said some expletives and said, ‘Can’t wait to give you a hug,’” Casali said. “If you guys know me, they mess with me a lot around here, so he was very excited to do that. He got me the minute I stepped into the door, too. They blew confetti on me and scared the absolute piss out of me. It’s good to be back.”

Casali last played for the Giants in 2022, when he appeared in 41 games before being dealt to the Mariners along with left-hander Matthew Boyd at the Trade Deadline. He batted only .175 with a .490 OPS over 40 games with the Reds last year, but he said he’s feeling better at the plate after working with Marlins hitting coach John Mabry to make some adjustments to his swing approach this spring.

“I think it just shows how much he loves the game and how much passion he has and how much he believes that he still has a lot more to give,” Yastrzemski said. “I talked to him beforehand to see where he was headed and if he had talked to anyone. He said it was pretty up in the air, so I wasn’t too hopeful. But knowing the type of player he is and how well he can control a staff, I was really hoping we’d be able to have him here to work with our guys.”

Casali has a reputation for being a good clubhouse guy, which could help boost morale for a Giants team that entered Wednesday a season-high-matching six games below .500 and has lost seven position players to the IL this month.

“Sometimes it’s nice to see a friendly face, and it can spark something,” Casali said. “Hopefully, I can be a little bit of a spark for the boys and get a win over the Dodgers tonight.”