Rusney Castillo, an international free-agent the Red Sox inked to a 7-year, $72.5 million contract last August, is making Boston’s decision on which outfielders will start the season in the majors very difficult.
Castillo launched a 10th inning pitch from Minnesota’s Jake Reed over the left-field wall on Thursday at JetBlue Park, giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead and the victory. In six Spring Training starts thus far, the 27-year old Cuba native is hitting .235/.235/.706 with two home-runs, a triple and four runs batted in.
Despite missing two weeks of Spring Training with a left oblique injury, Castillo has wasted very little time showing that he is in-game condition.
“It’s definitely gratifying, especially given I came up a little short in the previous at-bat with the bases loaded,” Castillo shared with MLB.com’s Ian Browne, using his interpreter Adrian Lorenzo. “It was nice to kind of pick up my team and be able to have that at-bat be a home run, especially to decide the game.”
“I’ve always enjoyed those moments because it’s a time when the fans are expecting you to decide the game,” Castillo said in Spanish in an interview with USA TODAY. “I like being in those situations and I try to focus in those at-bats.”
Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts seem like locks to start the season in the outfield, which leaves Castillo, Allen Craig, and Shane Victorino vying for the starting right fielder position. Castillo has the most minor league options out of those three candidates, so it seems as though the easiest move would be to start him in AAA to begin the season.
“I don’t worry too much about it. I just look ahead and train to get ready,” Castillo told USA TODAY. “When you’re at [AAA], the next step is the big leagues, and the season is very similar to the majors. I try to focus on doing my job wherever I am.”
However, Craig and Victorino have both shown an inability to stay healthy the last couple of seasons, playing in only 156 games combined in 2014.
Castillo, on the other hand, has performed well at every level since signing with the Red Sox, and seemingly has a much higher offensive and defensive ceiling than either Craig or Victorino.
In 11 minor league games between A and AAA in 2014, Castillo hit .293 with five extra-base hits, five runs batted in, seven runs scored, five walks and two stolen bases. He followed that up with an impressive major league debut, hitting .333/.400/.528 with two home runs, six RBI and three steals in 10 games with the big league club.
Although it seems like the easiest choice would be to let Castillo begin the season in AAA, he has made a strong case as to why he should start the 2015 season in Fenway Park as the starting right fielder. With Boston facing many questions regarding their pitching rotation and bullpen, the Red Sox should look to the slugging Castillo if they want to put their best possible lineup on the field.