BOSTON — The sting of a seventh straight loss quickly turned into excitement for the future for the Red Sox on Saturday.
Immediately after the team lost 7-3 to the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington held a news confidence to introduce Boston’s newest signing: 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.
“We’re certainly really excited about this signing,” Cherington said before presenting Castillo with a No. 38 Red Sox jersey. “We’ve gotten a chance to get to know Rusney a lot over the last several weeks. … This is an exciting player. He’s got a great combination of skills — defensive ability, speed, solid power. He’s got a really strong track record in Cuba. We’re excited to add him to the organization, and we feel like he can be a big part of winning Red Sox teams here for a long time.”
While the Red Sox did not know until shortly before Castillo signed his seven-year contract worth a reported $72.5 million that they had beaten out the outfielder’s other major league suitors (“Not until we came to a verbal agreement and started looking at flights,” Cherington said), he has been on the team’s radar for quite some time. Cherington said he and his scouts have had their eyes on Castillo since seeing him play in a tournament in Amsterdam in 2011.
“This someone who we identified or recognized in Cuba, in international play and things like that,” the GM told reporters. “So we’ve been evaluating him. We’ve had several scouts see him over a number of years and build some history that way. So you can recognize the bat speed, the swing path, the power — the ball comes off his bat really well, etc. And then we have spent quite a bit of time mining whatever data is available to us out of Cuba — performance data — and we feel like we are getting more and more precise in translating that and figure out what it means. Obviously, there have been recent examples of mature, high-profile guys coming out of Cuba, and we’ve seen what those transitions have looked like.”
One of those high-profile guys is fellow Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who came to Boston in the Jon Lester deal at last month’s trade deadline. Castillo said he had the chance to pick the outfielder’s brain a bit upon arriving at Fenway Park on Saturday.
“I didn’t really talk to (Cespedes) throughout the process,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “I got to talk to him (Saturday) for a little while. He’s obviously a player I’ve admired for a long time, and I’m happy to be a member of the Red Sox with him.
“It really means a lot for me to be a part of such a historic organization,” he added. “I’m just ecstatic to be here.”
Castillo still has to complete the process of obtaining a work visa and will spend time at the Red Sox’s spring training facility and possibly in the minor leagues before joining the big club full-time. Cherington said the hope is to get him on the field at Fenway sometime in September. There were some questions about how exactly he will fit into Boston’s crowded outfield when he finally does make his debut, but Cherington was very clear about what position Castillo will be playing.
“He’s a center fielder,” Cherington said. “As I said before, he’s got a lot of skills. We think he has a chance to impact the game in a number of different ways. … We see him as a very good major league player and part of a winning team here in Boston. As you guys know, we’ve always felt like in order for us to be good, we need two center fielders on the team. But he’s a center fielder.”
And, Cherington hopes he stays there for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously, given the commitment, we think he can be a really good player for us for a long time,” he said.
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