Rusney Castillo has left quite the impression on his winter ball manager.
Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in August, has been playing for Criollos de Caguas in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico in an effort to prepare for his first major league spring training. The club’s skipper, former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora, has been impressed by the Cuban outfielder’s commitment, both on and off the field.
“When we get imports, we put them at first in a hotel near the ballpark until they learn to drive around here. After that, they usually rent a place in San Juan — about a half hour from here,” Cora told ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes this week. “Rusney, the first thing he wanted to know was, how do I get here, how do I get there, without needing anybody. He learned in two days how to get from his apartment to the ballpark, his apartment to other stadiums. He is here in an apartment with his wife.
“He’s not a prima donna. He’s just like the other guys. He shows up on time, he works out, and off the field I’m very impressed with the way he acts and who he is.”
The Red Sox have high hopes for Castillo, who figures to be one of the team’s starting outfielders in 2015. The 27-year-old hit the ground running upon arriving in the United States, eventually appearing in 10 games with Boston down the stretch in 2014. He hit .333 with two homers, six RBIs, three stolen bases and a .928 OPS in 40 big league plate appearances.
Castillo played in the Arizona Fall League following the conclusion of the Major League Baseball season. His stint with the AFL’s Surprise Saguaros was cut short because of a thumb injury, but the dynamic outfielder didn’t skip a beat upon touching down in Puerto Rico earlier this month. He’s been a force both offensively and defensively, according to Cora, who’s also an ESPN analyst.
Cora told Edes that Castillo has shown great instincts, gotten good jumps and been light on his feet in center field. At the dish, Cora said, Castillo has shown power to all fields while making necessary adjustments.
Baseball is about more than just tools, though. One needs to be mentally tough to withstand a 162-game grind. If the early reports are any indication, Castillo shouldn’t have a problem fitting right in with his new Red Sox teammates.
“Besides the physical tools, he gets it,” Cora told Edes. “He gets baseball. It’s his passion. It’s what he lives. (Red Sox fans) will love him. It’s 24 hours, 7 days a week, non-stop baseball for him. He’ll be OK there.”
The Red Sox have been busy this offseason. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if their most important move for 2015 and beyond was made well before the organization wrapped up its dismal 2014.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@BostonStrong_34