Alex Cora

Alex Cora on MFB on Rusney Castillo: 'No doubt he's going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues'

Ryan Hannable
February 12, 2015 - 7:18 am

Former Red Sox player and current Criollos de Caguas winter ball manager Alex Cora joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to talk about Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, who he managed for 10 games this past winter. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. Cora had nothing but good things to say about Castillo, who in 10 games with Criollos de Caguas under Cora's watch, hit .405 after coming back from a thumb injury suffered in the Arizona Fall League. "He has a great approach," said Cora. "He only played 10 games for us and to be honest with you, I don't know how many hits he had, but everything was back up the middle or to right center. As you guys know, if he keeps that approach for a long period of time, you're going to hit for average. I was very surprised with that. Usually with the guys we've seen from Cuba coming to the big leagues they are dead pull hitters, very aggressive, a little bit out of control. He was the total opposite. "Talking to him offensively, he said he was working with [Red Sox asst. hitting coach] Victor Rodriguez at the end of the year with the leg kick. In the beginning he had a little bit of trouble getting it down on time, but the more he played the better he was. I have no doubt he's going to be a solid hitter in the big leagues." With a crowded Red Sox outfield, and Castillo's ability to play multiple positions, there has been some questions of where Castillo is best served to play in the field. Cora said no doubt he's a center fielder, where he played 10 games in the big leagues last September. Cora noted some of the in-game adjustments he was able to make during his time playing for him this past winter. "He'll be a center fielder," Cora said. "He will be a center fielder in the big leagues. I know the decision is for John [Farrell] and for Ben [Cherington] to make. The way he reads bats and the way he gets jumps, he's a very athletic guy. We thought coming in when he came down everyone was talking about how raw he was, especially defensively. He used to play in the infield and he made an adjustment right away. He was a guy that we would give him the scouting report and after the third inning you could see he was taking charge. He was moving the right fielder, he was moving the left fielder, he was playing shallow, he was playing deep -- he was making adjustments with the game and that was a great thing to see." In the 10 games in the majors last season, Castillo hit .333 with two home runs and six RBI, while stealing three bases. Cora views him as a potential top of the order hitter, but not right away, as he would like him to get some time to adjust to the majors and get settled in to an everyday routine. "I would hit him lead off with time," Cora said. "The good thing with that lineup now with all those big names -- Hanley [Ramirez] [Pablo] Sandoval -- the spotlight is not going to be on him. Early in the season you hit him seventh, eighth, down here and he gets used to it. We talked about the weather and he is a little worried about that, but that is part of it, it's always cold in April and it is always cold in October. It doesn't matter. It's just a matter of making an adjustment." "I don't think he's a middle of the order guy," he added. "I think he's going to be a game-changer at the top of the lineup, or one of those guys that can hit seventh and pick up the slack with whoever is up there running the bases, he can drive them in." Cora spent some time in Boston himself, so he said he talked to Castillo about the challenges of playing in Boston. He feels with the passion he has for the game, Castillo will be ready and can handle anything that will come his way, especially with the players the Red Sox already have. "He understands that this is a team that needs to win now, obviously," said Cora. "He understands that -- I explained to him that this is like a small town that loves baseball, it is 24/7. You go to the grocery store and they ask you why you went 0-for-4, or why you went 4-for-4, so be ready for that. I think he's ready for the challenge. "He is surrounded by guys that are not only Latinos like [Hanley Ramirez], [Pablo Sandoval] and [David Ortiz], but I also think one of the greatest leaders in baseball in Dustin Pedroia. We've stayed in touch all winter and I told him, 'You're going to love this guy. He's just like you. He wants to get ready for the game and play it with passion.' I think Rusney is going to do a good job in Boston this year."