Rusney Castillo is ready to finally get a break from baseball for a bit.

Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo is ready to finally get a break from baseball for a bit.

The 27 year old outfielder, who snuck in 10 games with the Red Sox at the end of the 2014 season after signing his seven-year, $72.5 million deal, has seen his run of winter ball participation come to an end.

Castillo will spend the remainder of the offseason in the Miami area after playing in 10 games for Alex Cora‘s Criollos de Caguas team in the Puerto Rico Winter League, leaving the team earlier this week. The stint comes after an eight-game stint in the Arizona Fall League.

According to Cora, Castillo didn’t leave without making a positive impression.

“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.”

Castillo played center field for Criollos de Caguas, hitting leadoff, second and third. The righty hitter got in 37 at-bats, hitting .405 with a home run and two stolen bases. He walked twice and struck out four times.

Between the two leagues, Castillo combined to total 78 plate appearances, with his Arizona Fall League experience getting cut short due to a thumb injury.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the outfielder’s work in Puerto Rico, according to Cora, was the opportunity to refine a leg kick he started picking up toward the conclusion of his stint 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.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

David Ross thought the entire offseason was bizarre enough.

David Ross thought the entire offseason was bizarre enough. As the former Red Sox catcher put it, ‘€œI was blown away and flattered by the offers and opportunities that came my way. It really shocked me.’€

Then the morning of Dec. 19 came around, and that took the unpredictability to another level.

“That last day was crazy,” Ross said by phone Friday afternoon.

Ross is the new owner of a two-year, $5 million deal with the Cubs, an agreement that was unofficially announced the Friday night before Christmas. But it was earlier that day when things took a turn he never saw coming.

Here’€™s what happened …

The day before, Thursday, Ross had informed the Red Sox he was going to verbally commit to the Cubs. Chicago had extended a two-year contract, which was a level the Red Sox didn’t appear ready to commit to.

According to the catcher, the Cubs’€™ signing of Jon Lester ‘€“ the pitcher Ross had caught with so much success over the previous two seasons ‘€“ also most likely had some impact on both the organizations’€™ offers.

“I think the two-year deal ‘€¦ I don’€™t know what pushed the Red Sox out, but I think the two-year deal may have been a little more than they wanted to go, to be honest with you,” Ross explained. “They didn’€™t say that, but I think that’€™s where they were at. I don’€™t know if Lester had anything to do with it. They told me it was independent of Lester. They didn’€™t stop their pursuit of me after Lester signed. But they might have been more aggressive if Lester came back. I don’€™t know that, but if I were them ‘€¦ I think about that, trying to take me out of it and trying to be real and see what an organization would want or what would I give me if I were an organization.”

Then, later that Thursday, San Diego — whom had already been rebuffed by Ross two different times throughout the offseason — came back with a fairly aggressive offer. It was a proposal that was relayed to Ross by his agent, Ryan Gleichowski, Friday morning. He told Gleichowski they could talk about it after the catcher finished his workout.

To Ross’ surprise, there was plenty to discuss after those two hours at the gym.

There had been the agreement by the Padres to trade catcher Ryan Hanigan ‘€“ whom was just acquired by San Diego three days earlier ‘€“ to the Red Sox in exchange for Will Middlebrooks. And then a report that Ross had also agreed to a deal with the Padres.

“It was a really weird day,” he said. “I went to sleep and got up the next morning and my agent told me the Padres had made another offer. I told him I was going to workout and we would talk when I got out. I literally got out of the gym, turned on my radio and they said David Ross had committed to the Padres. I couldn’€™t believe it. So I got my agent on the phone right away to try and figure that out. For about two hours of my day, it was crazy.

“I had turned [the Padres] down twice, saying no right away. I hadn’€™t fully committed to the Cubs, but I had. I wanted to be a man of my word. Me and Theo [Epstein] go back to ‘€™08 and I respect him. Once Boston was off the table, I had already put my heart with Chicago.”

Despite not having any inside knowledge, the deal of Hanigan to the Red Sox didn’€™t surprise Ross. Even after San Diego’€™s deal for the former Reds and Rays backstop, the Padres had kept pursuing Ross, with the catcher’€™s good friend and former teammate Dave Roberts taking lead in San Diego’€™s communication.

“They were still calling for me so I knew they were going to move someone,” Ross said. “Then I heard they might move Middlebrooks to San Diego and I knew the Red Sox had always liked Hanigan. Ben had called me on him before they signed A.J. [Pierzynski] but I don’€™t think it was going to work out with Cincinnati. I knew they really liked Hanigan so I just started assuming they were going to deal Hanigan, and sure enough. I didn’€™t know any of that was going on the next day when I was at the gym. It was crazy.”

After assuring Epstein and Cubs that there was no agreement with the Padres, and he remained committed to Chicago, the reality of joining Joe Maddon‘€™s team truly sunk in.

There were no hard feelings toward the Red Sox. (“I had told them I will not make a decision without talking to them first,” he said. “They were going to get right of first refusal. So we checked in every couple of weeks. We kind of agreed that if I was going to go a different way that I would give them a head’€™s up and let them know what the offer was. They were a treat to deal with, to be honest with you.”) But the combination of the two years, along with family-related factors paved the way for Ross’€™ decision.

“I really didn’€™t think there were a whole lot of teams interested, and interested to the level they were,” said Ross, who was limited to 86 regular season games in two seasons with the Red Sox. “When you have the year I had ‘€¦ I hadn’€™t been a part of a whole lot of losing teams, maybe it drains you a little bit mentally and you start wondering about how much longer I could play this game and if teams will be interested. I was going to be 38 years old, not having a good offensive years and my defensive numbers were down. Coming off the high of the year before it was sort of depressing. So, yeah, it was totally different than how I thought it would shake out, to be honest with you.”

He added, ‘€œKind of the deciding factor with Chicago was that I have some friends there, Joe Maddon‘€™s approach to the game and how he treats players. That is a really good dynamic for my family. If you get in at midnight you’€™re not expected to be at the yard at 2 o’€™clock. Those sort of things weighed on my mind a little more. The day game, talking to [Ryan] Dempster, was more of cool thing that I thought. You get to have breakfast with your kids and then also have dinner with them. But the two-year offer, and [Eric] Hinske is a good buddy of mine ‘€¦ Knowing how the Red Sox treat their players and how they do everything first-class made it a tough decision. They try and take as much off their plate as possible so they can just focus on baseball, and I know Theo is big into the mindset of how they think and what they should focus on ‘€¦ To me, there were more positives in Chicago for me and my family.’€

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Today we wrote about how the Red Sox priority has to be finishing off the construction of the bullpen. With some uncertainty involving the starting rotation, it would seem to make sense to have as good a read on the relievers heading into the season as possible.

(To read the entire column, click here.)

So far, this is what we know …

– Koji Uehara will come in as closer.

– Edward Mujica (he of the 1.78 ERA in his 79 post-All-Star break appearances) will join Junichi Tazawa as the primary set-up men.

– If Craig Breslow‘s ’14 is, indeed, an aberration he also enters into that group.

– Brandon Workman should get every opportunity to become the factor he was at the end of ’13.

– Newly-acquired Anthony Varvaro almost certainly will be in the equation as a viable ground ball-inducer, heading to camp out of options.

That’s six. There would seem to be room for one more.

Last Opening Day, the only differences in the group were the presence of Burke Badenhop, Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller. (Breslow started the year on the disabled list.)

While Varvaro might be viewed as a cheaper replacement for Badenhop (although the jack-of-all-trades free agent would seemingly still be valuable fit if re-signed), the Sox would seemingly be down one lefty. There are still free agent options (Phil Coke, Neal Cotts, Joe Beimel among them).

But this might be a spot the Sox look to fix with an internal option. For this very reason, the Drake Britton vs. Tommy Layne camp competition will be something to watch. If Britton impresses to the level which he did until the very end of spring training last year, he would certainly have the upper-hand considering 25 year old is out of options.

(As a quick aside, here are the players who are – or will be – on the 40-man roster and out of options: Varvaro, Britton, Breslow, Mujica and Daniel Nava.)

That would still seemingly leave one spot to find an impact arm, via promotion, trade or free agency. Matt Barnes might be an interesting option, although it is unclear if the Red Sox plan on continuing him down the road of a starter for the ’15 season. With options, he likes of Heath Hembree, Edwin Escobar and newly-acquired Zeke Spruill would have to separate themselves dramatically in camp to have a shot at opening with the big club.

Of the free agents, Badenhop might be the best option/fit. But one of an intriguing group just might slip through the cracks and add an unexpected element to this group …

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

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Burke Badenhop would still seem to be a good fit for the Red Sox. (Michael Ivins/Getty Images)The Red Sox have committed approximately $60 million to nine new players for the 2015 season.

The Red Sox officially announced Friday night that they are sending Will Middlebrooks to San Diego in exchange for Ryan Hanigan.

The Red Sox officially announced Friday night that they are sending Will Middlebrooks to San Diego in exchange for Ryan Hanigan.

Completion of the deal was contingent on Middlebrooks passing his physical with the Padres. The 26-year-old recently said that he is still recovering from a wrist injury, although he didn’€™t view the ailment as an issue heading into 2015.

‘€œ€œI want to stay in Boston; I want to play in Boston,’€€ Middlebooks said a few weeks ago at David Ortiz‘€˜s charity golf event. ‘€œI came up here, and I know it’€™€™s pretty rare for someone to stay in one place their whole career. I understand that. But I’€™€™m still going to try. I don’€™€™t really fit the mix right now. It doesn’€™€™t seem that there’€™€™s a place for me now. But it’€™€™s a long time until April and a lot of things can happen.’€

After the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval, there wasn’€™t a full-time spot on the roster for the third baseman. Battling injuries the past two seasons Middlebrooks has batted .213 with 19 homers, 168 strikeouts and a .265 on-base percentage since the start of 2013.

‘€œIt’€™€™s not enjoyable to be replaced,’€€ he added. ‘€œBut like I said, I understand. I’€™€™m trying to look at the big picture for the organization, but selfishly I say, ‘€˜€˜What about me? What’€™€™s going to happen with me?’€™€™ I’€™€™m curious to see what’€™€™s going to happen.’€

The Red Sox have previously expressed interested in Hanigan (an Andover native), targeting the 34-year-old right-handed hitter to back up Christian Vazquez. Hanigan, who played with Tampa Bay last season after spending his previous seven big league seasons with the Reds, was traded to San Diego earlier this week.

Hanigan played in 84 games with the Rays, hitting .218 with five home runs. His career-high in games played came in ‘€™12, totaling 112 appearances. He carries a career .256 batting average and .694 OPS.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

According to an industry source, the Red Sox have reached an agreement with Craig Breslow to bring back the left-hander on a one-year, $2 million deal.