The bright lights of Fenway Park await Rusney Castillo. The Cuban outfielder’s impending arrival to the Boston Red Sox will be filled with promise, expectations and, inherently, a great deal of pressure.
Those familiar with Castillo, including Red Sox outfielder and fellow Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, are confident in the 27-year-old’s ability to adapt to life as a Major League Baseball player. It won’t be an easy transition, though, and Castillo could benefit from the advice and tutelage of his new peers.
“Don’t feel bad and don’t get overwhelmed,” Cespedes recently told Boston.com’s Jessica Camerato in Spanish. “Stay calm and little by little it will get better.”
Cespedes’ transition is a perfect model for Castillo to follow, as he immediately enjoyed success with the Oakland Athletics after signing a four-year, $36 million contract before the 2012 season. The list of successful Cuban defectors continues to grow, too, as Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu also have reached All-Star levels since arriving in MLB.
Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red sox, features a different skill set. His game is more centered on speed than power, which makes it difficult to pinpoint his ceiling or assess his potential in relation to other Cuban players who have thrived in the bigs. The biggest adjustment regardless, however, could be adapting to everyday life off the diamond.
“I think in his personal life, it’s going to be a little difficult because the changes are very big,” Cespedes told Boston.com. “The change in language was the biggest for me. Also, the traffic. It’s nothing like that in Cuba. In Cuba, there are hardly cars. Also, the level of life … Here you have the possibility to have whatever you want.”
Cespedes and Castillo haven’t yet developed a close relationship. They played against each other for two years in Cuba, but being on opposing teams limited their exposure to each others’ game. Cespedes was impressed by what he saw in Castillo, though. And in his opinion, the Red Sox landed a very good player.
“He was very calm, dedicated to his job in baseball,” Cespedes said. “I think he has all the qualities to help the team a lot, whether it’s on defense, running. I know he can hit the ball.”
Castillo is scheduled to play his first game in the Red Sox organization Sunday. He’ll suit up for Game 1 of the Gulf Coast League finals with an eye toward potentially joining Boston at some point in September.
Photo via Twitter/@TomCaron