Rusney Castillo will make his big league debut on Wednesday. (Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH — Rusney Castillo is about to become a bit less mysterious.
Castillo will lead off and play center field for Pawtucket in the Triple-A championship game on Tuesday night in Charlotte, NC. Once that contest is concluded, he’ll fly to Pittsburgh to join the Red Sox, with a Wednesday night start in center field in the offing. The initial, brief read on his performance through 10 minor league playoff games — two in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, four in Double-A Portland and four more with Triple-A Pawtucket — has been favorable, particularly when taking into account that it had been roughly a year and a half since he’d last played baseball in a competitive environment.
He’s hitting .297 with a .381 OBP, .405 slugging mark, five walks, seven strikeouts and four doubles to this point. The Sox have seen some evidence of the athleticism and energy that scouts have seen for years.
“He’s an electric player and there’s a lot of skills here, it’s explosive, it’s quick twitch. Looking forward to seeing him in this environment,” said manager John Farrell, who said that, at the plate, “he’s handled himself well, and given the time off since he last played competitively, his at-bats have been productive, they’ve been consistent.” The defense has also been at least solid according to the reports of Triple-A manager Kevin Boles, with his reads and routes being described as average but with his closing speed permitting his range to exceed such descriptions.
While the early signs have been promising, Farrell suggested that it will be important to recognize that Castillo remains in spring training mode. While he is expected to play regularly, he will play less than everyday (in part due to the gradual buildup of his workload, in part because the Sox still have to work in other outfielders). Meanwhile, a team source said that Castillo is not expected to serve as the leadoff hitter — at least in the immediate term — while getting acclimated to the big leagues.
“I think it’s important for us to keep in mind and keep in perspective that it’s been a year and a half. He’s just kind of getting back into game shape,” said Farrell. “I think the goal going in for the games that he’s on the field is for him to just experience the environment. We’ve got a little bit of a read on him right now on where his strengths and limitations might be but that’s just an initial view. We’re still in the getting familiar stage of all this. I think any judgment on my part is reserved until we get to see him more.”
OTHER RED SOX NOTES
– David Ortiz, who left Sunday’s game due to a family emergency, has rejoined the Sox. However, in the absence of a designated hitter during the series in Pittsburgh, Ortiz will be available off the bench on both Tuesday and Wednesday. He’s scheduled to start at first base on Thursday.
– Brock Holt, sidelined by symptoms consistent with a concussion, will be re-examined by Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh on Thursday to determine when or whether he might be able to return to the field.
“He has a re-examination and a battery of tests scheduled for Thursday with Dr. Collins. I think that will be a pivotal day … in the sense of where he’s at and the projection for him going forward,” said Farrell. “Until we get that information, I have no real date marked for when he can be on the field. He’ll be on the field when he’s ready but Thursday is going to tell us a lot.”
– The Sox are considering tweaking their rotation to give knuckleballer Steven Wright a start before the end of the season. The team plans to continue to use Matt Barnes out of the bullpen going forward.
– Catcher Blake Swihart landed on the seven-day disabled list for Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Game 5 of the International League Governor’s Cup Finals due to a bruised hand, in part so the Sox could add a backup catcher to the roster for the game. Though Swihart is now fine, his placement on the DL prevented him from playing in Tuesday’s Triple-A championship game against Omaha.
– PawSox manager Kevin Boles will join the Sox going forward, as will player development programs coordinator Laz Gutierrez, who will continue to serve as Castillo’s interpreter, a role he has played since the outfield reported to Fort Myers.