Just a day after examining the center field battle between Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo, my efforts already appear to be in vain. After Castillo left Boston’s exhibition game against Boston College on Tuesday with soreness in his side, that soreness has been confirmed as an oblique strain. And while it doesn’t look like a serious injury, it certainly gives Betts an advantage in the center field sweepstakes.
During an interview with Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, manager John Farrell spoke on Castillo’s condition. Though he did mention that the injury was not particularly serious, he said that Castillo would be out for “more than a week” and that the Red Sox would take it slow given how early it is in the spring.
While this is obviously not good news, however, it does shine a light on the impressive depth that the Red Sox front office has cultivated. Even if Castillo is forced to miss significant time, which doesn’t appear likely, the Red Sox have more than adequate backup plans with Shane Victorino and Betts ready to step into full-time roles.
It’s obviously too early to go ahead and hand Betts the starting job, but this gives his chances a major boost. Betts, who will start the season at 22 years old, slashed .291/.368/.444 in 52 games at the major league level last season and projects to be an excellent player going forward. Plus, given his great on-base skills and excellent speed, he profiles as Boston’s best leadoff candidate and should play a huge role in a stacked Red Sox lineup.
Hopefully Castillo recovers from this injury and will be completely healthy and ready to play come Opening Day; however, muscle strains (and oblique strains in particular) have a tendency to linger. With Betts, the Red Sox will have a reliable center fielder even if Castillo is not 100% and if he is, then that’s just a testament to the depth of the Red Sox offense. This injury may not end up playing a role in this position battle, but as of right now, it gives Betts a fairly significant edge in the early stages of the spring.