Allen Webster

Allen Webster

The Red Sox will close out both an 11-game homestand and a three-game set with the Mariners Sunday afternoon, sending Allen Webster to the mound against Hisashi Iwakuma in the series finale.

Webster (3-1, 4.73 ERA) has turned in three straight quality starts for Boston, compiling a 3.86 ERA with a .239/.333/.388 line during that stretch.

In his last start Tuesday against the Angels, Webster gave up seven hits, three runs and three strikeouts over six innings of work in what was eventually a 4-3 Los Angeles win.

“When he’s right like for the vast majority of tonight, put the ball on the ground, ground balls,” manager John Farrell said. “It’s good to see him continue to back up outings in a positive way and build some momentum and I’m sure some confidence in his own right.”

While Webster has settled down after his shaky debut this season, the third inning has continued to be a thorn in the side of the 24-year-old. 12 of the 15 earned runs that Webster has allowed this season have come during the third.

Webster was rocked in his only career appearance against the Mariners on July 9, 2013, surrendering six hits and seven earned runs over just 2 1/3 innings.

Iwakuma (12-6, 2.57 ERA) has been extremely effective as of late, posting a 7-2 record with a 1.63 ERA over his last 10 starts.

In his last outing Tuesday, the 33-year-old shut down the Phillies for eight innings, holding his opponents to just four hits and no runs while racking up 11 strikeouts.

“He’s unbelievable,” Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager said after the game. “I looked up in the eighth and he hadn’t even thrown 20 balls yet. He just goes right at hitters, throws strikes with all his pitches, gets swings and misses with all his pitches and he works quick, gets ground balls. He’s everything you could ask for. He’s awesome to play behind.”

One of Iwakuma’€™s biggest strengths this season has been his efficiency and command on the mound. The right-hander has only given up four walks over his last 10 outings and a total of 12 free passes in 147 innings on the year.

Iwakuma struggled in his last start against Boston on June 25, giving up eight hits and five earned runs in just four innings of work. In three career starts against the Red Sox, Iwakuma is 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA.

Mariners vs. Webster (RHP)

Austin Jackson has two singles and one RBI in three plate appearances against Webster.

Brad Miller has one double and three RBIs in two plate appearances against Webster.

Kendrys Morales has two home runs and three RBIs in two plate appearances against Webster.

Kyle Seager has one single in two plate appearances against Webster.

Dustin Ackley has one walk in his only plate appearance against Webster.

Mike Zunino has one strikeout in his only plate appearance against Webster.

Red Sox vs. Iwakuma (RHP)

Yoenis Cespedes (22 plate appearances): .364/.364/.955, 4 doubles, 3 home runs

Brock Holt (8): .429/.375/.571, 3 singles, 1 double

Dustin Pedroia (8): .429/.500/.857, 1 home run, 3 RBIs

David Ortiz (7): .571/.571/1.571, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs

Mike Napoli (5): .250/.400/1.000, 1 home run, 2 RBIs

Daniel Nava (5): .400/.400/.400, 2 singles, 1 RBI

Kelly Johnson (4): .500/.500/.750, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Xander Bogaerts (2): .000/.000/.000

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

Why is Rusney Castillo now rich? Why did the Red Sox open the vault to confer $72.5 million upon a center fielder who has never played a single game in the majors and who hasn't been seen in a game of any sort since 2012? 

Although his time in the majors has been brief, Red Sox starter Brandon Workman has already seen his career marked by two vastly different stretches of play.

Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

Although his time in the majors has been brief, Red Sox starter Brandon Workman has already seen his career marked by two vastly different stretches of play.

Through his first eight big league starts, Workman looked like he belonged in the Red Sox rotation, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.91 ERA. He became the first Red Sox pitcher to make eight straight starts of five or more innings and three or fewer runs allowed since World War II.

Unfortunately for the 6-foot-5 righty, the last eight outings have been a far cry from his stellar debut, with an 0-8 record and a 6.75 ERA bloating his career numbers during the second half of the 2014 season. He has now achieved history of another sort, becoming the first Sox pitcher since Red Ruffing in 1929 to absorb the loss in eight or more consecutive appearances.

Workman’€™s latest outing fit his current trend of ineffectiveness, as the 26-year-old was torched for 10 hits and seven earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings against the Mariners Saturday in what eventually resulted in a 7-3 Red Sox defeat.

Despite his discouraging box score, Workman began the game on a good foot, holding Seattle scoreless through the first three innings, including a 1-2-3 inning in the third.

“It was a quick inning,”Workman said. “€œI threw strikes, made some good pitches, got ground balls. … I didn’€™t execute like that in the fourth.”

Indeed, the fourth inning was a vastly different for Workman. In between a strikeout to Mariners designated hitter Endy Chavez for the first out in the frame, Workman was rocked for five singles and one double, which, coupled with a wild pitch, helped erase Boston’€™s 3-0 lead and give the Mariners a 4-3 advantage.

Seattle left fielder Dustin Ackley would end the Mariners‘€™ scoring outburst with an exclamation point, jumping on a high fastball from Workman and depositing it just past Pesky’€™s Pole to make it a 7-3 contest.

“He gets through the first three innings in good shape, and then in the fourth inning when things started to slip away from him, he still pitched ahead in the count, unfortunately unable to put a number of hitters away in that fourth inning,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell after the game. “On a day when you look down and figure that we’ve got a maximum of five innings available in the bullpen, likely four, we tried to get him through the fourth.”

Workman, who was removed from the game after Ackley’€™s blast, gave up career highs in both hits and earned runs during his outing.

“œIt’€™s really just about executing pitches,” Workman said after the game. “Like I said, the ball was up all day for me. You can’€™t pitch like that. You can’€™t pitch with everything belt-high, and that’€™s what I did today and they took advantage of it.”

While it appeared that Workman’s struggles might be attributed to fatigue, the Arlington, Texas, native chalked up his poor performance to just a lack of sticking to his gameplan.

“I felt good all day,” Workman said. “I thought I could [get out of the jam], but I just wasn’€™t executing is what it came down to. I didn’€™t execute pitches when I had to in the fourth inning.”

Despite Workman’s poor track record as of late, Farrell added that he does not expect to give his starter an extended break or demote him to the bullpen going forward.

“That hasn’t been discussed yet, no, no,” Farrell said. “Today he came out and showed good arm strength and showed decent action to his curveball early, but then he made some mistakes on the plate, particularly ahead in the count with his fastball.”

While the combined effort of Alex Wilson, Junichi Tazawa and Burke Badenhop out of the bullpen posted a line of no hits and no runs over 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts to close out the game, the damage allowed by Workman was too much for Boston to overcome Saturday afternoon.

“They did a great job,”€ Workman said of the bullpen. “All of them. Wilson threw the ball very well today, same with Taz and [Badenhop]. … It’€™s just that fourth inning. They got all their runs in the fourth and that falls on me.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

Rusney Castillo is still learning his way around Boston.

But the 27-year-old Cuban native knows enough that playing in Boston is unlike any other city in the majors.

Rusney Castillo is still learning his way around Boston.

But the 27-year-old Cuban native knows enough that playing in Boston is unlike any other city in the majors.

“It really means a lot for me to be a part of such a historic organization. I’m just ecstatic to be here,” Castillo said through Red Sox translator Adrian Lorenzo, answering the first question he was asked during his introductory news conference at Fenway Park after Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Mariners.

Castillo said there was no debate about coming to America once he talked it over with his family.

“It really wasn’t that difficult of decision to make because I had a lot of support from my family back home,” Castillo said.

Castillo left immediately after the press conference to head back to Miami, where Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said the player will stay while the team works on his work visa in the States. Once the paperwork is finished and cleared, Castillo is expected to make the trek across Florida to Fort Myers, where he will report to the player development complex for work, something that is crucial at this point since he hasn’t played competitively in some 18 months.

Castillo said he has spoken to fellow countryman Yoenis Cespedes about what it will take to adjust to playing in the majors, especially in Boston.

“So actually, I’ve spoken to Cespedes a little bit about this,” Castillo said. “He made me aware that it’s the same game we’ve played in Cuba. Success here will come down to working and grinding on a day-to-day level.”

But Castillo made it clear that he wasn’t in touch with Cespedes, or Jose Abreu or any other Cuban stars while he and his agent were in negotiations with major league clubs over the past several weeks.

“I didn’t really talk to him throughout the process,” Castillo said. “I got to talk to him [Saturday pre-game] for a little while. He’s obviously a player I’ve admired for a long time, and I’m happy to be a member of the Red Sox with him.”

On Saturday, Red Sox manager compared Castillo to Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig, calling Castillo, at 5-foot-7, a shorter version of the Los Angeles outfielder.

Will Castillo join the list of players like Puig, Cespedes, Jose Abreu and Aroldis Chapman who have made a major splash once signing with an MLB team? The Red Sox think so. Castillo, for now, is just grateful to have been given the chance to prove the Red Sox wise for signing him.

“It’s really been a dream come true to be given this opportunity to play, especially in light of the success of recent Cuban players,” Castillo said. “It’s an honor and a privilege, really.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The search for the center fielder of the future in the Red Sox organization is over.

The search for the center fielder of the future in the Red Sox organization is over.

With this week’s $72.5 million commitment to Cuban star Rusney Castillo, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is making it clear that the organization feels Castillo, along with help from others, will be the answer to replacing the dynamic Jacoby Ellbsury for the rest of the decade.

“We’ve always felt like in order for us to be good, we need two center fielders on the team [and] he’s a center fielder,” Cherington said at the press conference after Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Mariners at Fenway. “We have to secure a work visa for him. That process will start here this week, and assuming we can get through that, we’ll get him into workouts and try to get him into games this season — 2014 season — and that would be in center field.

“Obviously, given the commitment, we think he can be a really good player for us for a long time.

Cherington feels Castillo, along with the likes of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, can fill the void left with Ellsbury’s departure.

“This is an exciting player,” Cherington said. “He’s got a great combination of skills, defensive ability, speed, solid power. He’s got a really strong track record in Cuba and we’re excited to add him to the organization. We feel like he can be a big part of winning Red Sox teams for a long time.

“He’s a center fielder. He’s got a lot of skills. We think he has the chance to impact the game in a number of different ways. He runs well, has a good solid throwing arm, solid power, good offensive track record in Cuba and international play. We see him as a very good major league player and part of a winning team here in Boston.”

Castillo, 27, hit .319 with 75 doubles, 11 triples, 51 home runs, 99 walks, 256 runs scored, and 76 stolen bases in 360 games over five seasons in Cuba’€™s major league, Serie Nacional. He spent all five seasons with his hometown team, Ciego de Avila, and posted a career .383 on-base percentage, .516 slugging percentage, and .899 OPS while appearing primarily in center and right field.

“This someone who we identified or recognized in Cuba, in international play and things like that,” Cherington said. “So we’ve been evaluating him. We’ve had several scouts see him over a number of years and build some history that way. So you can recognize the bat speed, the swing path, the power — the ball comes off his bat really well, etc. And then we have spent quite a bit of time mining whatever data is available to us out of Cuba — performance data — and we feel like we are getting more and more precise in translating that and figure out what it means. Obviously, there have been recent examples of mature, high-profile guys coming out of Cuba, and we’ve seen what those transitions have looked like.”

The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Castillo last played in Cuba during the 2012-13 season and hit .274 with six doubles, two triples, six homers, and 29 RBI over 68 contests in which he struck out fewer times (29) than he walked (31).

During the 2010-11 season, the right-handed batter set career highs with 22 home runs and 95 RBI. The following season, 2011-12, he hit .342 in 113 games with 60 extra-base hits, including 21 homers, helping Ciego de Avila to the Serie Nacional Championship.

“We’re certainly really excited about this signing,” Cherington said. “We’ve gotten a chance to know Rusney a lot over the last several weeks and then before that, we had seen him play, first in Amsterdam in 2011 and then again in Taiwan in 2012 and of course, over the last several weeks since he’s been in Florida, we’ve got a chance to know him even better.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent who represented outfielder Rusney Castillo in the free agent process that resulted in his client signing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox on Saturday, offered an outline of the trajectory that greeted his client’s arrival in

Brodie Van Wagenen, the agent who represented outfielder Rusney Castillo in the free agent process that resulted in his client signing a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox on Saturday, offered an outline of the trajectory that greeted his client’s arrival in Major League Baseball.

Rusney Castillo joins Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to sign his seven-year, $72.5 million contract. (Roc Nation)

Rusney Castillo joins Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to sign his seven-year, $72.5 million contract. (Roc Nation)

The free agent process began in earnest on July 26, when Castillo held a showcase for interested teams; 28 of the 30 clubs attended. Based on what Castillo showed that day, interest in his services did not abate.

“The interest coming out of that workout was really extraordinary — something we haven’t seen before in a typical free agent process,” said Van Wagenen. “As we started to narrow the field, we knew that we couldn’t have private, individual workouts for all 28 teams involved in that and still be able to keep a pace where we could sign and reach an agreement in a short period of time to still allow him to sign a 2014 contract. So, effectively we used economic interest as a narrowing scope to decide who got the private workouts and the private showcases. So we narrowed that list to about 13 teams, and then ultimately we narrowed that again to eight teams that received private workouts and extensive dialogue.”

From the beginning of the process, the Red Sox — under VP/player personnel Allard Baird — were among the most aggressive teams.

“Allard was really aggressive and really genuine in his approach and his level of interest that the Red Sox had. That came through to us, that gave us the insight that we felt like the Red Sox were going to be serious contenders,” said Van Wagenen. “As time played out, their level of interest continued to stay steady. Other members of the Red Sox organization became more involved, naturally. And then once we had our private workout, it was very clear that the Red Sox were going to be in one of the final positions as we went through it.”

Even when the Sox acquired a pair of outfielders at the trade deadline, adding Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, Van Wagenen didn’t get the sense that Boston’s interest in his client had waned.

“I think that once a team has identified true interest in the player, not just in the short-term but also the long-term, I don’t think short-term transactions or specific player transactions will necessarily wane that level of interest,” said Van Wagenen.

The process of defining the value of Castillo via free agency was an interesting one. Instead of defining Castillo’s value relative to that of other players from Cuba, the agent used past free agents with comparable skill sets to define what kind of financial guarantee Castillo might deserve. It is worth noting that Castillo received less than, say, Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and B.J. Upton (five years, $75 million), but more in guaranteed dollars (if not average annual salary in all cases) than Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million), Angel Pagan (four years, $40 million), Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million) and other recent free agent center fielders.

“I think this was actually an interesting process, because from the beginning, we got the sense that it wasn’t going to be valued simply as a Cuban market contract, but rather it was going to be a contract that was set in the context of what talent with premium speed, premium defensive ability and potential for plus power, what the marketplace was for players with those skills,” said Van Wagenen. “What we found was that there was a premium placed on those players with that dynamic skill set in past free agent marketplaces, and especially when teams were evaluating what was going to be available either at the trade deadline this summer or more importantly in free agency this winter, there just weren’t players that matched his skill set, and so it became a matter of how do you gauge his talent with respect to the market for free agent players and what’s the appropriate level of discount that you might take for a player that truly has never had a track record within Major League Baseball.”

Still, that discount wasn’t going to have to be extreme. After all, the level of interest in players from Cuba has been immense, for a number of reasons. They are coming to the big leagues in the middle of (or, as in the 27-year-old Castillo’s case, right before) their primes, as opposed to MLB free agents, whose best days are often behind them. They do not requiring a signing club to part with a draft pick as compensation, as elite major league free agents (who receive qualifying offers from their prior clubs) do. And there is now a track record of players from Cuba making successful and immediate transitions to the big leagues as impact players who don’t require time in the minors.

The result has been a succession of quickly escalating guarantees to Cuban players. Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million deal; Jose Abreu reached a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox; and Castillo raised the bar with his $72 million guarantee.

“Two things: One, just a few years ago, players weren’t getting paid what they’re getting now, so the economics have escalated across the game in general. But the opportunity to get free agents with premium talent at young ages in their prime is rare. The scarcity of that talent has been fueling the marketplace,” said Van Wagenen. “The success that the Cuban players have had immediately upon signing contracts, I think that’s been a very lucrative combination.”

Money and organizational fit were the driving forces behind Castillo’s interest in other teams. However, the Sox’ acquisition of Cespedes was unquestionably a plus when Castillo considered making the transition to the States.

“It’s always helpful to have eyes towards what the future clubhouse environment would be. I think Cespedes’ success as well as [Yasiel Puig] and [Aroldis Chapman] and other players that have come as well, especially Abreu of late, it gave him tremendous confidence that he could succeed here,” said Van Wagenen. “But as far as comfort level here, I think that once the Cespedes trade happened, it electrified the opportunity as we were narrowing our choices to a decision, because then it gave a tangible comrade that he could have in this clubhouse.”

On the field, Castillo was open-minded about his potential role with a club. While he was primarily an outfielder in Cuba for the last several years, he worked out at short and second (the positions where he got his start in Cuba’s Serie Nacional) in his showcase. He would have been open to moving back to the infield, but with the Sox, he never had to consider that outcome.

“Positional preference didn’t lead the day in terms of where he decided to play. I thin the opportunity and the way he fit into a roster construction moving forward was something that he looked at,” said Van Wagenen. “So for some teams that had interest in him in the infield, we wanted to have a better understanding of where him playing in the infield, how that would apply short-term and long-term to their roster construction. I think those discussions were had, but I think it was clear here that from the beginning they wanted him to be an outfielder.

That, in turn, will offer Castillo a sense of place in the coming years. So, too, will the environment that he encountered for the first time on Saturday at Fenway Park.

“When you see the environment here that exists here in Boston every day, with a team that isn’t in first place right now, but you’re still selling out the stadiums with a real energy and electricity in the ballparks, that’s what he’s used to playing in Cuba all the time. That is his normal,” said Van Wagenen. “It would be odd for him to go to another city where they’re not filling the stadium for a typical day. So I think this feels like what a baseball environment is supposed to be, and I think it’s very natural for him.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier