Familiar Ground

Major league clubhouses aren't new to Monell

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—When catcher Johnny Monell walked into his first big league camp this spring, the Brooklyn native acted like he'd been there before. That's because he had.

Monell, 24, grew up in baseball clubhouses around the world, from Taiwan to Mexico to Puerto Rico to leagues all over the U.S. His father Johnny Sr. played 17 professional seasons, spending time with three organizations while also playing independent ball.

Monell Sr. didn't reach the big leagues, but he played with plenty of big leaguers. Johnny Jr. has pictures with his dad's winter ball teammates in Puerto Rico—guys like Carlos Delgado and Jim Thome.

Three of Monell's instructors this spring—roving infield coach Jose Alguacil, roving baserunning coach Henry Cotto and big league hitting coach Hensley Meulens—had played with his father at one time or another.

Nepotism isn't the reason the Giants invited Monell to big league camp, though. He polished his catching skills last year, and with legitimate power from the left side, he's made himself into a prospect.

Monell, a 30th-round pick out of Seminole (Fla.) CC in 2007, credits two former catchers for his development. The first was Hector Villanueva, a one-time backstop with the Cubs, who first put the gear on him when he was 12 years old. Villanueva and his father are longtime friends and played together for independent Atlantic City.

"I was shagging in the outfield and he threw his bag at me," Monell said. "He said, 'You look good with the gear on. You should keep at it.' Ever since then I wanted to catch."

The second influence was former Twins catcher Brian Harper, now the Giants' manager at high Class A San Jose, who made Monell believe he could receive.

"He sat me down one day and said, 'You can be something special. You've just gotta work at it,' " Monell said. "My receiving skills were suspect. I can say that honestly. Last spring training I stayed in extended (spring) and did early work every day."


• Randy Johnson might have retired, but the Giants still have a 6-foot-10 lefthander in the system. They signed former Royals reliever Andy Sisco to a minor league deal. He missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

• Infielder Emmanuel Burriss sustained another break in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during the club's Cactus League opener. The club hoped a rehab schedule that included injections of a bone strengthening drug would allow Burriss to return in four weeks and avoid another surgery.