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Struggling Rusney Castillo sent down by Red Sox

Without seeing everyday action, Rusney Castillo was having trouble adjusting to the big leagues.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File 2015

With at-bats getting sparse for a scuffling Rusney Castillo over the past week, the Red Sox optioned the 27-year-old outfielder to Triple A Pawtucket Tuesday.

The Red Sox also called up righthander Justin Masterson from Pawtucket and told him he will pitch out of the bullpen.

In addition, catcher Erik Kratz was added to the major league roster and pitcher Steven Wright was sent to Pawtucket.

Castillo got just five plate appearances over the recent five-game road trip through Atlanta and Kansas City, ceding his spot in right field to a surging Brock Holt.

Since being called up May 22, Castillo has been inconsistent at the plate, hitting just .230 with a .260 on-base percentage. Rather than have him wait for opportunities off the bench, Sox manager John Farrell said the team wanted him to get regular at-bats in the minors.


"We just need to get him back to playing every day," Farrell said. "He'd been relegated to a bench role here, which in fairness to him was difficult to get into any kind of rhythm, gain some confidence, which he needs to with everyday play."

The Red Sox signed Castillo to a seven-year, $72 million deal last summer with the idea that he could make the kind of immediate impact that Cuban players from Jose Abreu to Yoenis Cespedes to Yasiel Puig have made in recent years. The contract was a record for an international free agent, eclipsing the $68 million deal that Abreu signed with the White Sox in 2013.

When Castillo made his debut last summer, hitting .333 with two homers, a double, and six RBIs in 10 games, he showed flashes of the speed and power the Sox coveted. But this season, he has been fed heavy doses of pitches in the bottom of the strike zone and has struggled adjusting, striking out in 19.5 percent of his plate appearances.


"He got pitched to differently in the time he was here this year than when he first came to us last year and what we saw in spring training," Farrell said. "He recognizes that there's pitches in certain parts of the zone that give him a little bit more difficulty than others. But that goes with making adjustments as you're being pitched to."

"In Rusney's case, the inconsistent play, because we've had some other guys — Brock being one of them that's taking at-bats away in right field — he needs to get back into the rhythm of the game more than anything."

The magnitude of the signing meant that Castillo came to the Sox with outsized expectations, but more than anything, the struggles have affected Castillo's confidence at the plate, Farrell said.

"Evident from the number of looks we had from a scouting sense, there was the thought that, yes, this would be an everyday player, and we still believe that will be the case," Farrell said.

"He's just going through a little bit of a stretch here where, even by his own admission, he might not be the most confident guy right now and is being attacked a certain way by opposing pitchers, and we've got to work through that."

Castillo played five seasons for Tigres de Ciego de Avila in Cuba's National Series league before defecting in 2013. He went a year without playing ball, and while the time away from the field may have been costly, Farrell said, the things Castillo needs to work on in Pawtucket have less to do with development and more to do with making adjustments.


"The year missed, sure, that's a void," said Farrell. "We can't go back in time. But to say that there's development or a specific focus on development, to me it's more a matter of how you adjust to the way you're being pitched.

"The speed of the game and the strength of the game is greater here than what he's experienced elsewhere."

Back to the bullpen

Masterson started seven games before going on the disabled list May 13 with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, and returns in a new role, out of the bullpen.

Masterson went 2-2 with a 6.37 ERA as a starter, and while he was out, the Sox rotation took a different shape with rookie Eduardo Rodriguez providing a spark.

The role isn't uncharted territory for Masterson, who made three relief appearances for St. Louis last season and was used largely as a reliever in his first stint in Boston. But Farrell said he wanted to ease him into the job.

"We've got to get him acclimated first," Farrell said. "Ideally, it'd be to come in and start a clean inning and we'll kind of see where things go from there."

"He hasn't relieved since last September, but he's healthy and I don't anticipate the need for a high number of pitches to get loose. But I think in fairness to our team and to him, we've got to take the first steps in getting him back into a reliever role."


Danger zone?

Joe Kelly only has one win to show for his last 13 starts. He's given up at least four runs in half of his 14 outings this season. Which leads to the question of whether Kelly will make his next scheduled start.

"We haven't had a chance to review all that," Farrell said. "But I think everyone, we're certainly well aware some of the up-and-down path it's been for Joe up to this point."

Kelly left Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to the Orioles after just 3 innings, having given up five runs on eight hits.

"I don't think I'm pressing out there," Kelly said. "I'll have a couple good ones then a bad one. It's just something where I've got to go out there and be a little more consistent and string more than a couple in a row better ones."

Missing out

Mike Napoli went down swinging three times and looking once. It was his second four-strikeout game of the season, but the other one came in a 19-inning marathon against the Yankees in which Napoli had eight trips to the plate.

"Rough night for Mike," said Farrell. "Some swing and miss there where he's had some decent success against [Orioles starter Ubaldo] Jimenez coming into tonight's game against him. Mike's working through searching to gain any kind of consistency.''

The Orioles will send Bud Norris to the mound on Wednesday, and the righthander has given Napoli fits (2 for 15 with eight strikeouts). With that in mind, Farrell said he might use the opportunity to give Napoli a rest.


"We're looking at matchups for the rest of the series, particularly tomorrow against Norris, where even when Mike has gone well, that's been a tough matchup for him," Farrell said. "So we'll look to put together a lineup that gives us a chance to match up the best we can."

No fault of Wright’s

Farrell called the decision to demote Wright — who had been reliable both in the rotation and out of the bullpen (3-2, 4.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) — a tough one. "Steven didn't pitch his way out of here," Farrell said. "This is a roster move that affects him. He's valuable because of his ability to go long when he's pitching out of the bullpen, and he did a solid job when he was in the rotation holding down that spot. So there's a certain level of dependability that he brings." . . . The Sox had claimed Kratz off waivers Sunday as insurance for Blake Swihart, who sprained his left foot Saturday. Farrell said Swihart was day to day, getting treatment, taking swings in the batting cage, and going through running drills. He could return to the lineup Wednesday.

Golden pick

Andrew Benintendi, the University of Arkansas outfielder who was taken seventh overall by the Red Sox in this month's draft, won the Golden Spikes Award as the top college player in the nation . . . Ryan Hanigan continued his rehab assignment with Pawtucket as a designated hitter Tuesday night, going 2 for 3 with two singles, a walk, and a run scored. Hanigan went 0 for 3 with a walk in his first rehab start Monday night. He'll be behind the plate again Wednesday, and Farrell said the plan will be to transition him to the Portland Sea Dogs when they return from a seven-game road trip. Hanigan has been on the disabled list since May 2 with a broken finger and is eligible to return July 1 . . . Farrell was hoping that Shane Victorino (left calf strain) could begin his rehab assignment Wednesday in Pawtucket . . . Mookie Betts extending his career-high hitting streak to 10 games with a double in the third inning. He matched Dustin Pedroia for the longest streak by a Sox player this season.