Rusney Castillo’s long journey to the major leagues is over.
The Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder will make his debut on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 27-year-old Castillo will play center field and bat seventh, ending a three-week sprint through Boston’s minor-league system for the former Cuban star.
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Now comes the fun part: Trying to deliver on the hype surrounding the seven-year, $72.5 million deal he signed last month, the largest given to a Cuban-born player. Castillo insists he feels no pressure to produce the kind of immediate impact in the majors provided by fellow countrymen like Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig and Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu.
"It’s not going to affect the way I’m going to approach the game," Castillo said through a translator. "You obviously admire those guys and you respect the success that they’ve had here and you hope for that to happen. I’m not going to use them as a barometer of how I measure my success."
Castillo defected to the US last winter after a stellar international career playing for his homeland. He spent months going through a lengthy legal process before looking for a job. The defending World Series champion Red Sox saw enough speed and power to outbid all other suitors.
Though Castillo played in just 10 games during brief stints at three different minor league levels, manager John Farrell is encouraged the leap to the majors won’t be a difficult one.
"The 40 ABs he’s gained so far are consistent with the skills he showed while playing internationally," Farrell said. "At the same time this is the beginning of it and we’ll let it unfold."
Castillo arrived in Pittsburgh early Wednesday after going 6 for 22 during with Triple-A Pawtucket. He met with Farrell, who called the last 11 games of the season a "teaching opportunity" and a chance to provide a jumping off point for 2015. Farrell declined to elaborate on how much playing time Castillo will see, saying simply "he’s in the lineup tonight."
Farrell’s biggest problem might be holding Castillo back. The two went over the expectations during their chat and while Farrell allowed it’s been well over a year since Castillo played in anything comparable to what he’ll see in the majors, there’s no reason to believe Castillo will be rusty.
That doesn’t mean the Red Sox are waiting for Castillo to be the second coming of Puig the moment he steps into the batter’s box. Regardless of how well or poorly the next 10 days go, Castillo is a part of the long-term plans. There’s no reason to draw conclusions based on what amounts to a brief cameo.
"This is a way to get him acclimated and get him in the flow of things," Farrell said.
Castillo hardly seems intimidated by the stage or the stakes.
"I’ve been told to just do what I do and play the game I learned and know how to play and to give it 100 percent and do my work," Castillo said. "Hopefully it will all work out."