How Rusney Castillo came to Boston


BOSTON -- In his native Cuba, 27-year-old Rusney Castillo is known as "La Pantera" -- the Panther.

He is Puig Lite, in the words of one  Boston Red Sox  talent evaluator, adding that at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Castillo is not as big as Dodgers star Yasiel Puig but has a powerful, compact body like Ron Gant , the former Brave. Fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes modestly has told confidants that Castillo is a better player than he is, according to another source.

Castillo has plus-plus speed, according to multiple teams that worked him out privately, able to navigate 60 yards in less than 6.5 seconds, according to one evaluator. "He's a flyer," the evaluator said.

He has plus-plus power, in the view of the Red Sox. "He's a free swinger who's not going to walk a lot, a pull hitter who will hit them so far over the Monster it will be crazy," said the evaluator. "And he has the power to reach the bullpens in right field."

That sentiment is not shared by every club that scouted him.

"We think he can hit 15 to 20 home runs, which these days may be plus power," said a talent evaluator for another club that had keen interest in him, "but we don't see him having 30-homer power. Hey, we could be wrong."

He has the hands and sufficient arm to play center field, the position he played on Cuba's national team until he was suspended for what the Cuban government termed a "violation of the code of ethics of revolutionary baseball."

Coming to terms on a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Castillo was the result of a months-long project spearheaded by Allard Baird, the team's vice president of player personnel.

Baird forged a relationship with Castillo, his handlers and his agents, almost from the time he defected from Cuba and established residency in Haiti last winter. Baird, with assistant director Jared Banner, stayed in touch with Castillo almost to the moment he signed.

"There was no stone unturned with Allard," one Sox source said Friday. "He knows everything about the kid."

Director of player personnel Dave Finley and special assignment scout Galen Carr went to see him last winter in the Dominican Republic. Eventually, a half-dozen or so Sox scouts, including international scouting director Eddie Romero and Latin American coordinator Todd Claus, saw him there. The Sox sent a contingent that included general manager Ben Cherington, Baird and special assignment scout Marc Wasinger to watch him at his showcase last month at the University of Miami, attended by 28 of 30 big league clubs.

For his private workout that followed in Fort Myers, the Sox had a full complement of evaluators present, led by Cherington and including special assignment scout Eddie Bane. Members of the team's video and medical staffs were also present, and the Sox arranged for pitchers to throw to him.

And they all watched all the video of Castillo playing in Cuba that they could get their hands on.

The process was an exhaustive one for the Sox, and a stressful one for Castillo, who went through a number of private workouts for clubs.

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