As the Boston Red Sox triumphed on Opening Day Monday, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 8-0, there was one high-priced Red Sox star who was not on hand for the victorious start to the 2015 season.
That was Rusney Castillo, the Red Sox's $72.5 million Cuban import who put up a promising 0.928 OPS in 10 games last year — but who was sent down to the minor leagues to start this year.
However, the latest rumors around the Red Sox now say that the 27-year-old five-tool outfielder will have only a brief stay at Triple-A Pawtucket. In fact, one longtime Boston beat writer claims Castillo will join the Big League team by the end of April.
"I think that Castillo will be up, let's put it this way, before April's out," said Sean McAdam, the Red Sox beat writer for Comcast Sports Net New England, who formerly covered the team for the Providence Journal and ESPN.com.
"Either something will happen in terms of performance on the field or an injury. It's clear that he's not going to be there for an extended period. It was a roster decision, not a baseball decision," McAdam said on Sunday.
Red Sox fans were stunned by the decision to drop Castillo from the Boston 25-man roster at the end of Spring Training, in favor of 34-year-old often-injured veteran Shane Victorino.
The "roster decision" was caused by the Red Sox logjam in the outfield, with the sudden rise of Mookie Betts in center field, Hanley Ramirez with a monopoly on left, and right field mix that includes Victorino, Allen Craig, Castillo, and reliable sub Daniel Nava.
But Boston General Manager Ben Cherington said that an oblique injury suffered by Castillo early in Spring Training that cut into the Cuban star's playing time also played a role in what Cherington called the "tough conversations" which led to Castillo's demotion.
"The only thing he hasn't done as a professional baseball player in the United States is play every day for a stretch of time," Cherington told the Boston Herald last week. "Then he misses some time in the spring. He'll have an opportunity to do that. He'll have the benefit of being able to get into the season and play every day and hopefully get on a roll, and then we'll see where it goes."
But with Victorino appearing in only 30 games in 2014 — and fewer than half of his team's games over his past four seasons with three different teams — and often struggling at the plate, the Red Sox will likely see Rusney Castillo in Boston sooner rather than later.
[Image: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images]