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.”
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.”
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 3⅔ 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.”
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.
No fault of Wright’s
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.