Rusney Castillo’s much-anticipated ride with the Boston Red Sox is in full swing.
Castillo made his professional debut Sunday for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. He garnered two at-bats while serving as the club’s designated hitter in a playoff game at the Red Sox’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. The 27-year-old, who recently signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston, went 1-for-2 with a single and a strikeout in his first competitive baseball game in over a year.
“I’ve done this for a long time,” Castillo told reporters in Fort Myers through translator Laz Gutierrez, Boston’s player development programs coordinator. “It’s like riding a bike. I felt good and I was happy I was back out there today.”
Castillo, reportedly playing in front of 50 or so fans on a back field at JetBlue Park, singled in his first at-bat. He ripped a 2-0 fastball into left field off Venezuelan pitcher Luis Cedeno, who entered with a 1.13 ERA over 40 innings.
Much has been made of Castillo’s speed, which figures to be a focal point of his game. It wasn’t enough for him to swipe second base after he singled in the first inning, though, as 19-year-old catcher Alvaro Noriega gunned down Castillo on attempted steal.
“That’s my game — try to get on and try to steal,” Castillo said. “It was something I was definitely thinking about.”
Castillo saw three pitches in his second at-bat. He missed a high fastball, popped up another heater and then went down looking on a pitch on the outside corner.
“There’s no specific number of at-bats (I need),” Castillo told reporters. “It’s a matter of just playing. The goal from the beginning for me is to play in the big leagues this year.
“Like any hitter, I love to hit, but I think all aspects of my game I want to improve on. Obviously getting on base and being able to use my legs is a big part of my game.”
Castillo will remain with the GCL Red Sox, who have another championship game Monday. After that, he’ll likely move to Single-A Salem and eventually join the major league club at some point in mid-September.
After more than a year of waiting, it’s now onward and upward for the promising Cuban defector.
“I feel great,” Castillo said. “It was a good day. I’ve wanted this day to come for a long time now. It finally got here.”
(H/T to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford for the stellar camera work below.)
Photo via Twitter/@PerfectGamePR