By Eddie Pannone
PAWTUCKET, R.I. – With the Boston Red Sox trading Shane Victorino and designating Daniel Nava for assignment, they have cleared room for OF Rusney Castillo to step up and show he belongs in the big leagues. In a short time since being promoted on July 27 he has played as well as he ever has at the MLB level, getting a hit in each of his games including a home run last night.
It hasn’t been an easy go of things in 2015 for Castillo. He’s battled injuries, a language barrier and an 18-month layoff while defecting from Cuba. His aggressive style of play has led to some self-induced slumps and he hasn’t always looked comfortable at the plate.
Enter Red Sox HOF Dwight Evans, a player development consultant for the organization for ten years who visits with players and gives them advice on how to have a successful career. Evans was recently at one of Castillo’s games in Pawtucket and during batting practice was talking to him with catcher Humberto Quintero acting as a translator. Though translation wasn’t always needed, Evans wanted to make sure Castillo was as comfortable with him as possible.
“I’ve been around guys who are still learning the language,” Evans explained. “The confidence in his English probably isn’t there but he understands what I’m saying to him.”
“He’s a calming presence,” PawSox manager Kevin Boles said of Evans’ work with Castillo. “He’s been there, has experience and keeps the game in perspective. He’s a tremendous resource.”
As Evans talks to Castillo, the conversation is not about mechanics or how to change his swing. Rather it is strictly on the mental side of the game, something a player with loads of talent like Castillo could have trouble with.
“He’s so strong and I don’t want to change him,” Evans said. “I just want him to relax and give him ways to do it. People used to tell me ‘Try and relax,’ but they never told me how to do it. It’s easy to say but it’s tough to do. I just want to give him some tools on how to not be so tight.”
Focusing on the mental approach to baseball is what Evans likes to do. It is why Boston typically sends him to their upper-level minor league facilities and let him talk to players during spring training.
“I like working with the older guys,” Evans said, “because it’s more about the mental part of the game. That for me is enjoyable.”
For example, Evans recalls talking a lot with Justin Masterson and other pitchers over the years about pitching despite being an outfielder.
“I don’t know anything about pitching,” he said, “but I know what hitters don’t like to see. Hitters really hate pitchers that pound the strike zone and get ahead. Then they can use their nasty pitches to get you out.”
Listening to Evans talk for even just a few minutes, it is clear the knowledge, experience and love he has for the game. His words of wisdom have helped other PawSox as they came up through the minors, and it looks as if “Dewey” could have done it again for Castillo.