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New Giant Casali has friends in high places

@mi_guardado
January 5, 2021

It wasn’t difficult to sell Curt Casali on the Giants. Casali is close friends with former Vanderbilt teammate Mike Yastrzemski, who shared a rental home with the veteran catcher in Old Town Scottsdale last spring. He knows third baseman Evan Longoria from his days with the Rays. He caught right-handers

It wasn’t difficult to sell Curt Casali on the Giants.

Casali is close friends with former Vanderbilt teammate Mike Yastrzemski, who shared a rental home with the veteran catcher in Old Town Scottsdale last spring. He knows third baseman Evan Longoria from his days with the Rays. He caught right-handers Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani with the Reds and relished the opportunity to reunite with hitting coach Donnie Ecker, who also came over from Cincinnati. Casali also “randomly” plays “Call of Duty” with outfielder Steven Duggar.

“I could sit here for an hour and talk about all the reasons that I really wanted to be a Giant, but [being] around great people is definitely the one that sticks out to me,” Casali said during a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday.

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Casali will find plenty of familiar faces around the clubhouse when he reports to Giants camp this spring, but he wouldn’t mind seeing one more. Casali, who is the favorite to back up Buster Posey after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal, said he’s hoping to help recruit free-agent right-hander Trevor Bauer, another former Reds teammate.

"I can try to sell him if you guys want me to,” Casali, 32, said. “I talk to him frequently. He's earned the right to be a free agent. Few people get to be in his position right now, so I hope he enjoys it. I hope he gets what's due to him.

“Would I love to have him be a part of the Giants? Yes, absolutely. If I'm ever instructed to woo him, I will."

Bauer, who will turn 30 this month, is the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and the most prominent starter available on the open market this winter. Despite signing Gausman and DeSclafani this offseason, the Giants could use a premier arm to front their pitching staff.

Bauer certainly fits the bill after logging a 1.73 ERA with 100 strikeouts over 73 innings in 2020, but it remains to be seen whether the Giants, who have been reluctant to dole out multiyear contracts under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, will emerge as a serious bidders for the ace.

“He’s always ahead of the curve,” Casali said of Bauer. “He’s the most analytical pitcher I’ve ever caught. He understands exactly how his body works. He’s extremely smart. He’s extremely well-prepared when he gets on the mound. He’s the one leading the pregame meetings every time. He knows exactly what the hitters are, what their capabilities are, and he knows exactly how to attack them.”

It’s worth noting that Casali’s recruitment skills have worked in the past. When Yastrzemski made his official visit to Vanderbilt more than a decade ago, Casali ended up hosting him in Nashville and quickly bonded with Yastrzemski over their upbringings in the Northeast and other commonalities. Their friendship grew once Yastrzemski committed to Vanderbilt and has endured over the years, with the pair serving as groomsmen in each other’s weddings.

When Casali was considering joining the Giants this offseason, he spoke with Yastrzemski to gain further insight on the organization and confirm that San Francisco would be a good landing spot.

“I talked to Yaz quite a bit,” Casali said. “I wasn't trying to get too many people involved, just in case it didn't work out. Mike was hugely important in basically laying the land out for what I would be walking into. It's nice to have a person to kind of act as a liaison coming into a new organization.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.