BOSTON -- It hasn’t felt like much of an offseason for Boston Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo.
After stops with three minor league teams last season before finally reaching the majors in mid-September, Castillo then made his way out west to play for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. From there, following his recovery from a thumb injury that ended his AFL season at eight games, Castillo played more baseball in Puerto Rico as a member of the Alex Cora-led Criollos de Caguas.
Now, with a little less than a month remaining before position players report to spring training for the Red Sox, Castillo finds himself in Boston as part of the team’s annual Rookie Development Program. It’s been a whirlwind five months for Castillo since being signed by the Red Sox to a lucrative seven-year deal, but the Cuban outfielder has enjoyed every stop along the way as he gets ready for his first full-season taste of major league baseball.
“[The offseason has] gone really well actually,” Castillo said Friday through translator Adrian Lorenzo. “It’s helping me build some experience. On top of that, when I got back to Miami after playing in those leagues I really stepped it up with my preparation and my training. I feel really good rolling into this season and spring training.”
Having shown glimpses of his potential in his short time with the Red Sox last season, the expectation is that Castillo will start next season as the team’s starting center fielder. Castillo hit .333 with two home runs, six RBIs and three stolen bases in 10 games with Boston last year before carrying that success into winter ball, where he hit .342 with a home run, seven RBIs and three stolen bases in 18 games between Arizona and Puerto Rico.
“I guess the most important thing that I kept in mind when playing [in the winter leagues] was that it’s always the same game,” Castillo said. “I kind of always tried to keep the same approach I’ve had throughout my baseball career, not just here in the U.S. It really helped me establish a more professional routine, just getting more repetitions. So that’s probably the most important thing I drew from all that.”
In addition to finding a routine, Castillo is in the process of acclimating to life in the United States. Between Miami, where Castillo first established temporary residence in America, and Boston, where he has spent the last week getting his first taste of the New England cold, it’s all been new for Castillo, who has been learning on the fly.
“Rusney has definitely one of the bigger challenges just due to the cultural change and the level and getting to know the organization and staff and players,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett explained. “He’s been tremendous. He’s really focused in everything he does. He had a tremendous routine and it starts in the cage every day. He’s got a tremendous workout routine that he’s been really dedicated to.
“And, at the same time, he’s wanted to learn. He’s asked a lot of questions, he wants to take in the things that he can from what we’re doing and implement those into his routine. Despite all that movement and despite all the change that he’s had, he’s been able to stay focused on playing.”
Playing is all Castillo has on his mind right now. With a new season less than three months away, the 27-year-old Cuban is excited to get a chance to prove himself as a major league player -- even if that means more work on top of everything he’s had to do so far this offseason.
“I’m obviously preparing myself and doing everything I can to be in a good place to be a regular everyday player,” Castillo said. “Whether that comes with physical, mental preparation, everything. I’m definitely working towards that.”