Red Sox: Who is playing in left field?

Mar 22, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Rusney Castillo (38) at bat against the Miami Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Rusney Castillo (38) at bat against the Miami Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

A string of injuries has led to a somewhat unfamiliar face taking over in left field for the Boston Red Sox.

Left field has been a revolving door for the Boston Red Sox, as a string of injuries has forced the team to cycle through various options in the first half of the season.

We started the year with Brock Holt manning the position, but he was never the ideal long-term solution given that his versatility has always been his greatest asset. The Brock Star has been sidelined for the past several weeks with a concussion, which opened the door for Blake Swihart to take over the role.

Swihart, the Opening Day catcher for the Red Sox, would soon lose his starting role to Christian Vazquez. After a brief stint in Pawtucket to receive a crash course in playing the outfield, Swihart was rushed back to Boston to take over left field. His exposure to the position was limited, but the Red Sox wanted his bat in the lineup and that was the only position they could fit him in at the moment. Sure, because that philosophy worked wonders the previous year.

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Surprisingly, Swihart handled himself reasonably well in left field, at least until he learned the hard way that crashing into walls can be detrimental to staying on the field. Swihart suffered a severely sprained ankle in a collision with that unforgiving wall on June 4, sidelining him indefinitely and putting his season in doubt.

The Red Sox then turned to Chris Young, who they had acquired to serve in a platoon role. His ability to mash against lefties made him an ideal candidate to serve as a fourth outfielder that could strategically be deployed based on the matchup. His history of struggling against right-handed pitching made relying on Young on an everyday bases a different story, but luckily a recent hot streak coincided with when the Red Sox were forced to turn to him. Young is hitting a robust .325/.371/.750 with 5 home runs in June.

Everything was going just fine with Young taking over, until he was pulled from Wednesday night’s game with a quad injury. With Young unavailable on Thursday, the Red Sox once again need to turn to someone else to fill the void in left field.

For tonight at least, that will be Rusney Castillo.

That’s right, for only the second time this season, the $72.5 million man is getting a start for the Red Sox. Castillo has spent the bulk of the year playing for Triple-A Pawtucket and his brief time in the big leagues has been limited primarily to pinch-hitting, running or fielding.

The team’s reluctance to use Castillo shows just how far he has fallen in the eyes of the front office and coaching staff. He may not be the last resort (come on, that would have to be turning to Hanley Ramirez to move back to left), but he’s close to it. The rash of injuries has deprived the Red Sox depth to the point where they are now essentially forced to give Castillo another shot.

A shot that could be his last.

The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball with only modest production from their left fielders. The four players that have patrolled the position this year have collectively hit .253 with a .742 OPS, which isn’t that far off of Castillo’s career numbers (.264 average with a .685 OPS over 314 at-bats). Castillo doesn’t need to do much in order for the Red Sox lineup to keep chugging along and we know he can at least handle the position defensively.

Castillo doesn’t appear to factor into the team’s long-term plans, but all he needs to do is hold his own until the other outfielder options get healthier or the Red Sox make a trade. They are essentially treading water with Castillo and trying not to drown until someone else can come in to be the savior of the position.

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Who knows, perhaps Castillo will surprise us by showing flashes of the potential that led to the Red Sox forking over a lucrative contract when he was a free agent out of Cuba. As over-matched as he has looked, some steady plate appearances at the big league level may be just what he needs to salvage his career.

Otherwise, the Red Sox will have to turn to someone else, as the revolving door continues to turn.