FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where a wild wind at JetBlue Park proved vexing to fielders all day, but Boston Red Sox right fielder Rusney Castillo didn’t have a problem with that -- or anything else -- in a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
Castillo seems to have a flair for the dramatic. He launched a monster home run in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League on March 20 against the Baltimore Orioles, and six days later he beat the Minnesota Twins with a walk-off homer.
And then came Sunday.
On a sun-splashed but blustery day that blew a few homers back into play and forced fielders to make some scrambling, last-second catches, Castillo delivered the defensive play of the game in the top of the 10th and then scored the winning run in the bottom half of the inning on Deven Marrero's two-out single off The Green Monster.
In the top half of the 10th, Castillo made a diving catch of Coty Blanchard's fly ball in foul territory, then sprung to his feet and threw a no-hop strike to catcher Matt Spring to nail Cade Gotta at home plate and end the inning.
“I don’t know that you can make a play better than the one he made,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Diving play in foul territory, he gets up and sets his feet and throws a 150-foot strike. A dynamic player when you consider the skill set that he has. If there was any question of whether he could play right field, I think he’s certainly answering those for us in camp here.”
When Castillo was called up to Boston last September after signing a $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox following his departure from Cuba, he played 10 errorless games, but they were all in center field. Farrell likes what he’s seen out of Castillo’s right-field foray so far this spring.
“He’s handled a number of balls,” Farrell said. “We were over in Jupiter and he handled a sinking line drive that was going toward the line. His reads and his routes are fine there. Obviously, he has enough arm to play the position. So (he’s) a very good athlete.”
Farrell said Castillo looks “more in flow” with the game than he did in his brief action last September.
“Rather than being a workout type of player that he was for nearly a year, his timing, his decisions in the field, his decisions on the basepaths are all very solid,” Farrell said.
Farrell on Johnson: Before the game, Farrell said left-hander Brian Johnson has been one of the “bright spots” of the spring.
“The way he’s handled it, the way he’s pitched, the assertiveness and aggressiveness, the way he goes about his work,” Farrell said about what he likes. “There’s more velocity than I anticipated, and (there’s) depth and sharpness to his breaking ball, so two really strong points. You read all the reports judging a minor-league season and you get information on individuals, but when you see it play against major-league hitters, it certainly adds to his cause.”
And Farrell was singing the same song after Johnson’s sixth appearance and second start of the Grapefruit League, in which Johnson was nicked for six hits in four innings but got out of some jams and held the damage to two runs.
“I thought he had good stuff overall,” Farrell said. “I think the thing he’s learning here in the number of outings he’s had for us is just the consistent strike-throwing from pitch to pitch, hitter to hitter. He’s a guy who typically has good command of the strike zone, but a couple of times during the course of his outings there have been some base on balls that have led off an inning that have resulted in a run. But I think this has been a very productive spring so far.”
Farrell said Johnson, who will make his final spring appearance Friday, has “certainly helped his cause” in his bid to be a depth starter.
“Not being on the roster is one thing, but at some point that doesn’t become a deterrent,” Farrell said. “He’s had very good mound presence, good poise, he’s attacked the strike zone. He works at a pretty quick pace. Sometimes that gets the better of him at times when he rushes into pitches. But he’s shown very well here.”
Said Johnson, “That stuff is out of my control. I just want to go out there and show I can compete and give us a chance to win every time I get the ball. Other than that, just work as hard as I can every day leading up to that.”
His batterymate was Blake Swihart, and given the ominous news that starting catcher Christian Vazquez is headed for a visit with orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday and potentially could face season-ending Tommy John surgery, Johnson’s relationship with Swihart could ultimately prove to be huge.
“I love him,” Johnson said of Swihart. “I threw to him in (Double-A) Portland probably over 100 innings, and I have no complaints. He’s great back there. I trust him wholeheartedly with everything he does -- runner at third, throwing the ball in the dirt, what he calls. Me and him usually get on the same page very quick.”
Big Papi: David Ortiz went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and is hitting .208 in a spring truncated by dehydration and physical issues. Think Farrell is worried? Hardly.
“He had good swings even after he missed six or seven days,” Farrell said. “He came right back and his timing’s been there. Even though he was down for a number of games, there was still daily work going on in the cage. I’ve got no concerns with David and where’s he’s at in terms of being ready for (Opening Day) next Monday.”
Farrell on Barnes: Farrell said Matt Barnes is “not out of the mix” to be a starter.
“It’s a guy that’s been throwing pitches for strikes, so when you profile him out, he profiles as a starter,” Farrell said. “But he’s also throwing the ball well in shorter stints. He’s a good pitcher.”
The Red Sox don’t have a lot of hard-throwing arms in the bullpen, but Farrell said that wouldn’t factor into the decision with Barnes, who “can dial it up any time he wants it into the upper-90s” and “can be overpowering at times,” according to soxprospects.com.
“That’s an intriguing part,” Farrell said, “but setting the velocity aside, we were probably one of the teams at the lower end of the scale last year. Up until the trading deadline, we were one of the better-performing bullpens in all of baseball, so it’s a matter of getting outs.”
Farrell on Pablo Sandoval, who went 1-for-3 with a double and is now hitting .205: “We know he’s an aggressive-type hitter. He’s got the ability to hit a number of different pitches where they might be located in the strike zone. Seemingly, he can handle pitches from his ankles to his head. That’s the type of hitter he is, particularly from the left side of the plate. It was good to see him square up the ball right-handed today. That’s been a work of emphasis for him in his early work with Chili (hitting coach Chili Davis). So he’s been as advertised for us.”
Allen Craig, who is close to being traded, according to a report Saturday by ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes, went 0-for-2 with a walk. He had a chance to win the game in the 10th but was retired on a flyout.
Outfielder Shane Victorino, who had not played in back-to-back games in the field this spring, made his second straight start Sunday and is expected to start again Monday.
Mookie Betts leads the Grapefruit League with 11 extra-base hits, is second with 36 total bases and is tied for second with 19 hits. His 11 extra-base hits are the most by a Boston player in a single spring training since Josh Reddick's 12 in 2010.