Rusney Castillo met with the media in Fort Myers after playing in his first professional game with the Red Sox organization Sunday. ( photo)

Rusney Castllo ( photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At 12:05 p.m., Rusney Castillo officially became a little less of a mystery.

The newly-signed outfielder stepped into the batters box for the Red Sox Gulf Coast League team, leading off and serving as a designated hitter, playing competitively for the first time since July, 2013.

With friends, family and some curious South Florida fans lining Field 1 at the Red Sox minor league training facility, Castillo watched a Luis Cedeno fastball sail just outside the strike zone for a ball. After another ball, the right-handed hitter jumped all over a third heater from the 20-year-old Venezuelan for a line-drive single just to the right of the shortstop.

Castillo attempted to make the most of his trip to first, attempting a steal of second on catcher Alvaro Noriega. The 19-year-old backstop got the better of the battle, however, gunning down the 5-foot-9 speedster.

“I’€™ve done this for a long time. it’€™s like riding a bike,” Castillo said through translator Laz Guiterrez. “I felt good and I was happy I was back out there today.”

Regarding the stolen base attempt, he added, “That’€™s my game. try to get on and try to steal. It was something I was definitely thinking about.”

Castillo’s second (and final) at-bat didn’t go as well, sitting down on a called third strike after seeing three fastballs. The first he took a healthy cut on the initial pitch and then fouled off the second before watching Strike Three on the outside corner.

“I feel great. It was a good day,” he said. “I’€™ve wanted this day to come for a long time now. It finally got here. I feel good physically and mentally.”

After exiting the game, Castillo signed autographs for about 10 minutes before joining Gutierrez in taking a golf cart over to speak with about a small gathering of media members.

Among the five-minute series of questions, Castillo was asked about how he viewed the successes of Cuban players before him.

“It’s definitely added a lot of confidence, it’s definitely motivated me,” he said. “I want my countrymen to do well ‘€” guys that he played with. It’s definitely a motivating factor and something that’€™s assisted him with his confidence level.”

With the GCL Red Sox slated to play again Monday, in Tampa against the Yankees, Castillo will likely stay with the group before most likely advancing to Single-A Salem.

A likely scenario would put Castillo in a Red Sox uniform sometime in the middle of September, perhaps during their final road trip of the season (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore).

“My No. 1 objective would be to be the same player I’ve always been, play my game and not try to do too much or try to become someone else, another type of player that I’m not,” he said.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Following their 7-0 loss to the Rays, the Red Sox announced a trade with the Orioles.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Following their 7-0 loss to the Rays, the Red Sox announced a trade with the Orioles.

The Sox are sending Kelly Johnson and minor-leaguer Michael Almanzar to the O’s in exchange for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus.

“First of all, I mean, Boston, you can tell right away why they win and why they’re always at the top year in and year out,” said Johnson, who was saying his goodbyes in the visitors clubhouse after the loss. “Obviously a down year, but they have winners everywhere throughout the organization. I enjoyed it and definitely learned just in those regards, just watching guys with World Series rings on their fingers and how they prepare and treat the game. A lot of respect.

“Also, obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team. Had a blast last year with Tampa going to the playoffs. Obviously Boston was the best team in baseball. It’s a weird year. This, obviously, being the last team in the East that I hadn’t played with that I’m going to play with.”

For the Red Sox, perhaps the most notable piece of the deal is Weeks, who was the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft for the Athletics. The 27-year-old utiltyman (and brother of Milwaukee’s Richie Weeks) — whose best position is probably second base — has very limited time in the majors this season, going 3-for-11.

Weeks, a switch-hitter, hit .280 for Triple-A Norfolk, totaling 12 doubles, four triples and a home run. He will be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.

This will be the second go-round with the Red Sox for De Jesus, who had initially joined the Sox in the 2012 trade with the Dodgers. He has spent all of ’14 in Triple-A, making the International League‘s midseason All-Star Team. He hit .282 with five homers for Norfolk.

Johnson, who was dealt from the Yankees in exchange for Stephen Drew just before the non-waiver trade deadline, played in 10 games for the Red Sox, going 4-for-25. He appeared at first base, second base, third base and left field.

Almanzar spent spring training with the Orioles after having been selected by Baltimore in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason. He was returned to the Red Sox July 1, hitting .277 with five home runs for Double-A Portland. The corner infielder was originally signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic by the Red Sox for $1.5 million.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will now be called “Why You Should Have Cared” taking into consideration that the Red Sox one day away from entering September 16 games under .500

(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will now be called “Why You Should Have Cared” taking into consideration that the Red Sox one day away from entering September 16 games under .500)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There was so much hope for Allen Webster in that 2013 spring training.

The vision of an athletic pitcher who consistently cranked his fastball up to 98-99 mph while dropping in an off-the-table changeup had top of the rotation talk coming from all corners of the Red Sox organization. There was also the positive ’14 spring training, and an encouraging minor-league season this year.

Times have changed.

Webster continue to do little in the way of positioning himself for a spot on the 2015 roster, struggling once again. This time the righty allowed six runs on five hits and three walks over four innings, taking the loss in the Red Sox’ 7-0 defeat to the Rays Saturday night.

The outing follows Webster’s last go-round, a 4 1/3-inning, six-run start against Seattle. The hurler’s ERA now stands at 6.69.

Webster’s biggest issues appear to be with runners on base, having come into his seventh major league start with opponents hitting just .185 with nobody on base. This time he allowed runs in each of the innings (second and fourth) there were Rays baserunners.

Other things to care about as the Red Sox dropped to 59-76:

- Dustin Pedroia was forced to leave the game in the second inning after being hit in the head by a Logan Forsythe forearm. The play occurred when the second baseman was diving in to tag the Rays’ baserunner after Forsythe’s drive to deep center.

Pedroia immediately slumped face-first to the ground, eventually walking off with Red Sox manager John Farrell and trainer Brad Pearson.

- Will Middlebrooks managed the only Red Sox hit, while hitting two balls to the warning track. The third baseman — who came in the game when Pedroia left — has now, however, still gone 133 at-bats without a home run. In his first 133 big league at-bats, the righty hitter had accumulated six homers.

- Former Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp has been designated for assignment yet again, this time by the Texas Rangers. Carp had only 46 plate appearances with the Rangers, going 5-for-40 without an extra-base hit.

- Felix Doubront turned in a stellar outing in his first start for the Cubs Saturday, allowing one run on seven hits over seven innings. The performance came on the same mound in St. Louis he had such great success in the World Series as a reliever.

“I was thinking about that, stepping on the mound, and feeling the way I felt in the World Series last year,” Doubront told reporters. “The first inning, second inning were shaky. The third inning, I was feeling that rhythm in the game. This is my team now, and I have to give everything 100 percent that I have and go out and win games and help the guys.”

Doubront beat another former Red Sox hurler, Justin Masterson, who continued his struggles by allowing five runs over 4 1/3 innings. In six starts this month with the Cardinals, the righty has totaled a 7.90 ERA.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left Saturday night’s game against the Rays in the second inning after being hit in the left side of the head with a swinging forearm from Tampa Bay baserunner Logan Forsythe.

Pedroia had just gathered in the throw from center fielder Mookie Betts when he lunged to tag Forsythe, who had just garnered a hit to deep center field. The Rays’ baserunner slid head-first, swinging his right arm around and striking Pedroia just below his cap.

After calling time, Pedroia immediately slumped face-down on the ground, leading to Red Sox manager John Farrell and trainer Brad Pearson sprinting on to the field. After a consultation with Pearson, the second baseman was led off the field.

Brock Holt moved over from third base, replacing Pedroia at second, with Will Middlebrooks coming in to play third.

The Red Sox trailed 3-0 at the time of Pedroia’s departure.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It appears as though more than expected will be getting a chance to make an impression in the Red Sox starting rotation in the coming month.

Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It appears as though more than expected will be getting a chance to make an impression in the Red Sox starting rotation in the coming month.

Prior to the Sox’€™ game against the Rays at Tropicana Field Saturday night, manager John Farrell said that team is leaning toward going with a six-man rotation in the coming weeks.

A ‘€œstrong candidate’€ to be inserted within the current group, according to Farrell, is Brandon Workman.

“There’€™s some talk, because we go into a stretch now, it’€™s about 18 days consecutively, we may look at going to a six-man rotation just to build in an added day of rest,” Farrell said. “How we then factor in the off day that’€™s coming after that, we can adjust again and go back for a turn through and not get too far removed from a previous start. There’€™s quite a bit of possibility we’€™d go to a six-man rotation.”

For the next few days, the Red Sox will be carrying one less starter with Anthony Ranaudo being sent to Single-A Greenville to make room on the 25-man roster for Xander Bogaerts.

The thinking behind sending Ranaudo to Greenville is that he can still be recalled to make his regularly-scheduled start against the Yankees in New York because the Drive’€™s season won’€™t be extending into the postseason. With no postseason play, along with the rosters expanding on Sept. 1, Ranaudo won’€™t have to spend the usual 10 days in the minors after being sent down.

Farrell said the reports from Workman’€™s outing Friday night (6 2/3 innings, run) were positive.

“The last two starts, when we gave him a little bit of a breather, it spiked up a little bit,” the manger said. “He carried the same velocity last night which, even in the last start, he was 92, 93 for the most part. More importantly though, is the elevation or location within the strike zone. That, to me, has been the biggest thing. not the velocity.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jon Lester may be Plan A, but James Shields won’€™t be that far behind.

While most are rightfully focusing on the Red Sox‘€™ chances of bringing back Lester via free agency, according to sources, the team will be eyeing the current Kansas City ace, a familiar name in American League East circles, this offseason.

Shields won’€™t get the haul of a Lester or Max Scherzer, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that a four-year deal is in the offing for the 33-year-old righty.

It should come as no surprise that any run at Shields won’€™t come cheap, but, according to those who know him best, he might be the best alternative if the Sox miss out of on Lester.

Just ask Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who had to live through his team dealing the pitcher who had helped the Rays to the postseason in 2008, ‘€™10 and ‘€™11.

“You knew he would still be good for years to come,” said Maddon prior to his team’€™s game against the Red Sox Friday night. “There was going to be no drop-off. He’s still absolutely young enough. He’s kind of in the prime right now of what he’s doing. He takes such great care of himself. He’s so highly competitive. And the ancillary benefits to the rest of the staff are incredible because of the way he is.”

While the built-in caution for Shields remains pitching on a contract while in his mid-30′€™s, there is plenty to identify as reasons why he will be a worthy offseason target.

On the field, Shields has been remarkably consistent, currently trending toward pitching more than 200 innings for an eighth straight season. His ERA for ‘€™14 is 3.45, coming off a ‘€™13 campaign in which he totaled a 3.15 mark.

His secondary stuff is almost as important as the fastball, having thrown his changeup 20 percent of the time this season and curve 14 percent.

Shields hasn’€™t had near the success within the American League East Lester has ‘€“ totaling a 43-42 mark with a 3.83 ERA ‘€“ but the familiarity with pitching in such an environment doesn’€™t hurt his cause.

And then there is the make-up.

“He’s not afraid to say what he thinks and he’s not afraid to be confident,” Maddon said. “He’s not afraid to be outwardly confident. I’m not saying arrogant, but outwardly confident. You have to be good to back that stuff up. It’s not quite Joe Namath-esque, but it’s a level below that. He’s not guaranteeing anything, but he likes to say things in an attempt to force himself to do those things. It’s like he has a self-motivating method, which I’ve always loved about him. A lot of guys are afraid to do that.

“It’s not unlike Jonny Gomes. He’s not afraid of high expectations, whether you heap them on him, or he heaps them on himself. He’s doesn’t run away from expectations.”

Shields was credited for setting he tone and tenor for a Tampa Bay staff that evolved into one of the best in the AL. And, since being traded to Kansas City prior to the ‘€™13 season, he has implemented the same mentality for the young Royals starters.

“He’€™s got a ton of energy, he’€™s a tremendous competitor, and he’€™s a great communicator, and you couple all that together,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost recently told the Kansas City Star. “He’€™s always talking to guys, he’€™s always encouraging guys, he’€™s always upbeat with guys.

“And he’€™s in it for the team more than he’€™s in it for himself. Guys see it, they recognize it, they go with it.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford