Red Sox

Remember Rusney Castillo? He'll make $14 million in Triple-A, then finally become a free agent

Remember Rusney Castillo? He'll make $14 million in Triple-A, then finally become a free agent

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On an unseasonably cool Florida afternoon, Red Sox regulars scattered like mice before the start of the annual spring training exhibition vs. Northeastern.

None of them were going to play, and therefore, none had to stay, the promise of a rare afternoon off beckoning like an oasis.

So in their place, a parade of prospects, minor leaguers, and fringe performers comprised the starting nine. Some -- such as center fielder Jarren Duran -- may have a future in Boston. Others -- such as third baseman Chad De La Guerra or left fielder John Andreoli -- are household names only in their own households.

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But there, batting cleanup and playing right field, was a man with more name recognition than all of them combined, finishing his Red Sox career in a peculiar purgatory, population: one.

When the Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract in 2014, he represented not only hope for the future, but redemption for the failure to sign Cuban countryman Jose Abreu a year earlier. He was supposed to hit for power, steal bases, and make plays across the outfield. The Red Sox signed him not because he possessed any particular overwhelming skill, but for his across-the-board stability.

Six years later, Castillo is cashing his final Red Sox checks, having fulfilled virtually none of that promise. He'll make $14 million this season, but he hasn't appeared in a major-league game since 2016, and he hasn't recorded a hit since his first contest of that season, when he went 2-for-4 as an April fill-in.

Despite spending more on payroll over the prior three seasons than anyone, the Red Sox simply couldn't justify Castillo's place in the majors.

Because he's not a member of the 40-man roster, his salary doesn't count for luxury tax purposes. So he has stayed in the minors, hitting better than .300 in two of the past three seasons at Triple-A Pawtucket, sharing a clubhouse with major leaguers only in spring training.

Once the Grapefruit League schedule ends, Castillo packs his cars -- including a vintage McLaren and Lamborghini -- and heads north to Pawtucket, where he plays every day with little hope of reaching Boston, no matter how much he produces.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke feels for the 32-year-old, who will actually become a free agent this fall, when he'll hit the market with over $70 million in earnings and only one-tenth of one season of service time.

"He's going to be a free agent at the end of the year, so I think this is a big year for him," Roenicke said. "Go out and do what you've been doing, which has been really good in Triple-A, and hopefully you find yourself in the big leagues, and not to say it won't happen this year, but if it doesn't, shoot, go out and be the same guy and maybe play a few more years. I don't know him that well, but I know they've had really good things to say about him. He's been in a tough spot, and he keeps doing a nice job for us."


Joe Kelly still has major bone to pick with sign-stealing Astros players


Joe Kelly still has major bone to pick with sign-stealing Astros players

Joe Kelly isn't done taking aim at the Houston Astros.

The Los Angeles Dodgers reliever recently earned an eight-game suspension (reportedly reduced to five games upon appeal) for throwing at multiple Houston Astros players during the teams' late-July matchup.

And in case you were unclear how Kelly feels about Houston's players stealing signs back in 2017, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher left little doubt during an appearance on teammate Ross Stripling's "Big Swing" podcast.

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"The people who took the fall for what happened is nonsense," Kelly told Stripling. "Yes, everyone is involved. But the way that [sign-stealing system] was run over there was not from coaching staff. ... They're not the head boss in charge of that thing. It's the players.

"So now the players get the immunity, and all they do is go snitch like a little b----, and they don't have to get fined, they don't have to lose games."

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora all lost their jobs as a result of Major League Baseball's investigation, while the players were granted immunity and weren't punished.

Kelly believes the players played a central role in the sign-stealing operation, though, and left their bosses out to dry by refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

"When you take someone's livelihood ... to save your own ass, that's what I don't like," Kelly said. "Cheating? They cheated. Everyone knows they're cheaters. They know they're cheaters. It's over. That's been there, done that. But now they mess it up by ruining other people's lives, so they f---ed it up twice.

" ... When you taint someone's name to save your own name, this is one of the worst things that you could probably do. ... That really friggin' bugs me. I think I'll be irritated forever."

Kelly earned a 2018 World Series ring under Cora in Boston and seemed particularly irked by Cora getting punished while his Astros players skated free.

"Maybe they have called [Cora] and said, 'Hey, I'm sorry,' " Kelly said. "... If they had said, 'Hey, I'm super-scared, I didn't know what to do, I didn't want to lose money, I had to rat.' ... Grow a pair of balls and say that."

The Dodgers host the Astros for two more games on Sept. 12 and 13. If Kelly's comments are any indication, it sounds like he won't be over this by then.

Watch Brusdar Graterol blow away Manny Machado while becoming an L.A. folk hero

File photo

Watch Brusdar Graterol blow away Manny Machado while becoming an L.A. folk hero

They call him the Bazooka. And he's taking Los Angeles by storm.

As if trading Mookie Betts didn't open the Red Sox to enough buyer's remorse, the emergence of flame-throwing Brusdar Graterol in Los Angeles means they could also end up suffering from decliner's remorse.

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On Wednesday night, Graterol continued to amaze Dodgers fans with a three-pitch strikeout of Padres All-Star Manny Machado that wasn't remotely fair.

Machado took fastballs of 99 and 100 mph before flailing at a 91-mph slider that had his catcher practically diving into the left-handed batter's box. Watch for yourself:

Graterol, of course, is the reliever the Red Sox had originally accepted from the Twins to complete the Betts deal before balking at his medicals. Los Angeles took Graterol instead and sent prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong to Boston.

Graterol is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA and seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings as part of a dominating Dodgers bullpen. He was nicknamed the Buffalo during his minor league days, a nod to his 6-1, 265-pound frame, but Dodgers fans have taken to calling him the Bazooka for his 100-mph sinkers.

The 21-year-old could've been pitching in Boston this year, but the Red Sox went another route. The coming years will tell us if they made the right choice.