Ben Cherington on Rusney Castillo: 'We think he's going to be a core part of our team'

Mike Petraglia
August 23, 2014 - 3:14 pm
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The search for the center fielder of the future in the Red Sox organization is over. With this week's seven-year, $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. "From our perspective, it just means we're trying to get better," Cherington said. "We know we need 25 guys on the roster to win games. We feel Rusney can be one of them. That's all it means. I think we knew going forward, we feel good about the talent that's here, and we feel good about adding Rusney to that talent. We want a talented, deep roster and we want a competitive atmosphere and competitive environment moving forward. So hopefully, we're closer to that with Rusney on board. "It wouldn't changed our evaluation of him. Certainly, I think you make decisions based on all the information you have at the time and I think we all know we're trying to build a winning team as quickly as we can, and we're confident we can do that. And we felt like Rusney could be an important part of that. But obviously, this is a long-term commitment. This is not a decision that's being about next week or next April. This is someone we think is going to be a core part of our team for a long time and be part of what we hope is a very deep and talented roster in the short term and moving forward." "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."
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