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Rusney Castillo – The Answer in Center?
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 25: Rusney Castillo #38 of the Boston Red Sox makes a catch in center field in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Fenway Park on September 25, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 25: Rusney Castillo #38 of the Boston Red Sox makes a catch in center field in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Fenway Park on September 25, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Last week I wrote about Xander Bogearts probably feeling as much pressure as any Red Sox player entering spring training.

Another player feeling pressure, though in a different way, will be 27-year-old Rusney Castillo, penciled in for center field. That position, held down capably by Jacoby Ellsbury before his departure to New York, was very unproductive in 2014. Jackie Bradley Jr failed miserably at the plate. So did Grady Sizemore. Shane Victorino, who might have played there, missed most of the season wilth a variety of injuries.
The reason that Castillo, who defected from Cuba in ’13, might be feeling added pressure is the size of his contract. Last August he inked a $72.5 million deal which runs through 2020.
Castillo had been a star on the Cielo de Avila team since 2010-11, when he posted a .320 mark with 22 homers and 95 rbi’s in 107 games. He also led his league with 32 stolen bases. The following year was even better, with a .342 mark, .574 slugging percentage, and .408 OBP. His 37 doubles topped the league, and he plated 84 runs. Castillo’s final year, 2012-13, saw his production drop, but he is still considered a strong prospect. He also starred in the 2011 baseball World Cup series and Pan American Games.
It cannot have been easy for Castillo to leave, as many Cuban stars and prospects have attempted to do illegally. A good number have been caught and suspened from playing again in their home country. Castillo finally did make it out.
Quoted by weei.com‘s Rob Bradford, John Farrell discussed his status, which will not be as a leadoff man. “I think (he has) very good gap power…I think it is probably best that we bring him along maybe a little bit along the way. Maybe give him some at bats, whether that is in the bottom third of the order…I think that is the best way to acclimate him as we go forward.” Farrell is wise in doing this, because the pressure of a huge contract might be even bigger if he led off. He showed both speed and power in Cuba, but doing it in Fenway is different.
On the blog Bosox Injection, writer Brandon Nickel sums up the situation: “Castillo could very well be an immediate superstar, but he could also get shell-shocked if he is baptized by fire in the cathedral of Boston.” He should get every chance, but fans should not expect miracles, either from Castillo ofr the Sox.