There are conflicting reports on whether he will be invited to spring training, but it is believed to be a minor league deal for the right-handed reliever, who missed 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Villarreal, 28, posted a 5.02 ERA (84 ERA+) in 37 2-3 innings of work for the Astros in 2008, coming over in a trade that sent outfielder Josh Anderson to Atlanta. A veteran of six seasons, he’s had several very good years, including a strong rookie season in 2003 with Arizona, then two good years following elbow surgery in 2006-07 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Ed Wade and the Astros designated him for assignment just three months into a two-year, $2.85 million contract in 2008. In between Houston and Kansas City, Seattle signed him and assigned him to Triple-A Tacoma, but he was released after a few weeks. A native of Mexico, he’s 24-15 with a 3.86 ERA (116 ERA+) with a 236/135 K/BB ratio over 336 big-league innings. Villarreal latched on with Kansas City before last season, but never made it onto the field. When healthy, Villarreal’s success has generally come in lower-leverage frames. As of this writing, Scott Lauber believes the deal does not include an invite to major league camp this spring, but several outlets, including Todd Zolecki and Rotoworld, believe he’ll be invited. The Red Sox, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Rockies were also monitoring him, according to reports. According to AOL's Ed Price, who has been tracking Villarreal, the right-hander was clocked at 89-90 in last week's scouting sessions.
Beerleaguer: Strong selection from baseball's bargain bin. Impressive off-season for Amaro in how he's stretched his dollar to address certain areas like the bench and bullpen. Considering the timetable for Tommy John recovery, the Phillies are likely hoping Villarreal can help their club during the dog days of summer, once fatigue starts setting into the bullpen. (Ed Price of AOL's Fanhouse said the surgery occurred nine months ago). One can never have enough experienced pitching. Like Jose Contreras, Villarreal has potential to be a nice late-season sleeper for the Phils.