Castillo's pro debut in GCL 'like riding a bike'

Castillo's pro debut in GCL 'like riding a bike'
August 31, 2014, 2:15 pm
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(AP Photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- His work day was over before he knew it -- six pitches across two at-bats -- in a game held on a back field in front of a hundred or so onlookers.
     
But for Rusney Castillo, who made his pro debut for the Red Sox in a Gulf Coast League playoff game against the GCL Yankees Sunday, simply being on the field again was liberating.
     
"It feels great," said Castillo through translator, Laz Gutierrez, the Red Sox' player development program coordinator. "It was a good day. I've wanted this day to come for a long time now. It finally got here. It feels good physically and mentally."
     
Castillo, who signed a landmark $72.5 million deal 10 days ago with the Red Sox, said he last played in an organized game in July, 2013, some 14 months ago. In his first at-bat, he singled through the shortstop hole on a 2-and-0 pitch and then was thrown out trying to steal second base.
     
Two innings later, he took a called third strike, striking out on three pitches.
     
"I've done this for a long time," he said. "(Being back and playing) is like riding a bike. I felt good and I was happy to be back out there today."
     
He was unapologetic about being thrown out in his first stolen base attempt.
     
"That's my game," he said. "I try to get on and try to steal, so it was something I was definitely thinking about."
     
With a deciding Game Three set for Monday in Tampa, Castillo could play for the GCL Sox again. Or he could join any one of three other minor league affiliates -- Salem, Portland or Pawtucket -- who have clinched or are close to clinching post-season spots.
     
Either way, he won't be limited to DH much anymore and will play center field, his natural position.
     
"I love playing (in the outfield) and I'm ready for it," he said.
    
It's unclear how many games he'll play or how many at-bats he'll get before joining the big league club.
     
"There's no specific number of at-bats [needed]," said Castillo. "It's a matter of just playing and the goal from the beginning for me is to play in the big leagues this year. Like any hitter, I love to hit. But all aspects of the game I hope to improve on. Obviously, getting on base and being able to use my legs is a big part of my game."
     
Castillo has watched other Cubans such as Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig and future Red Sox teammate Yoenis Cespedes succeed in the big leagues and takes comfort in their ability to make the successful transition.
     
"It's definitely added a lot of confidence," he said. "It's definitely motivated me. I want my countrymen to do well, guys that I played with. So it's definitely a motivating factor and something that's assisted me with my confidence level."
     
But as much as he's being compared to his countrymen, his goal is to forge his own identity.
     
"My number one objective," he vowed, "would be to be the same player I've always been. Play my game and not try to do too much and not try to become someone else, another type of player I'm not."

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