|Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports|
Rusney Castillo is ready for some holidays after joining the Red Sox at the end of the 2014 season where he played 10 games for them before being told he would spend the winter trying to accumulate 200 at-bats.
Having just signed a seven year deal for $72.5 million he was more than ready to put in the work to ensure he could hit the ground running at the start of Spring Training.
The first target was for him to participate in the Arizona Fall League, but this came to a abrupt halt. He hit .278 with a .333 OBP and .361 slugging mark with three doubles, three walks and six strikeouts in 39 plate appearances for the Surprise Saguaros before getting hit on the thumb.
Taking time off to rehab the thumb, he was then scheduled to participate in the Puerto Rico Winter League, where Castillo played center field for Criollos de Caguas, hitting lead off, second and third. He finishes spectacular batting line of .405/.415/.541, with two steals, two doubles, one homer and six RBIs.
For those that are counting, that's just a bit shy of the 200 plate appearances the Red Sox were targeting for him. If you take the total of all his plate appearances since signing, he has achieved 162 (39 in Arizona Fall League, 40 with the Red Sox, 46 in the minors and 37 in Winter League).
What the numbers show is that he has been picking up the pace and seems to be hitting his stride. In his final game, Castillo rapped two doubles and added a walk in four plate appearances, driving in three runs.
If we summarize his Winter League play (Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rico Winter League) he has a .342/.385/.452 batting line.
More telling are the comments from his coach, Alex Cora, who thought Castillo left a positive impression down in Puerto Rico.
"He's ready to play in the big leagues," the former Red Sox infielder said. "Mentally, we were very impressed with his approach. He didn't try and pull too much. Most of his hits were back up the middle, right-center. Defensively was the part that caught our eye. He did a really good job in center field. He has a feel of where to play guys after that first at-bat. We liked what we saw."
According to Cora Castillo had the chance to refine a leg kick he started picking up toward the end of his time with the Red Sox last season.
"He was working on that new leg kick," said Cora, who said Red Sox executive Allard Baird came down to check in with Castillo about a week ago. "He tried to use it toward the end of the season in the big leagues and sometimes he was caught in between trying to get his foot down. But the more he played, the better he got at it. Hopefully for him with spring training and learning the pitchers and more repetition, he’s going to be OK with it."
"The report we got that was he was raw baseball-wise. But he's not. The way he talks the game in the dugout. The way he gets details. That really caught my eye."
The word on the street is that he is ready to go, so expect good things out of the chute from Castillo.
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More by Eric D. Schabell