Castillo, Craig hoping to get back on radar this spring

Castillo, Craig hoping to get back on radar this spring

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In different ways, they were both prominent in the not-too-distant past.

On Saturday morning, they went about their Spring Training work together in relative anonymity on Field 5 with the other non-roster position players at Red Sox camp.

Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo was highly regarded enough by Boston to be signed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract in August 2014. A month before that, the Red Sox traded for Allen Craig, a hitter they thought highly enough of to part with John Lackey as compensation.

While Castillo was only known for his potential, Craig built his reputation on production, serving as one of the top run producers in the National League before a left foot injury led to a slump that he still hasn't emerged from more than three years later.

Castillo and Craig have both lost their way, and will try to at least get back on the radar -- though likely not the roster -- by the end of Spring Training.

Last year at this time, Castillo was projected to be Boston's starting left fielder. But he couldn't get any elevation with his contact and was at Triple-A by April, and off the 40-man roster by June.

Where does he go from here?

"I think we all recognize [Castillo] not being on the roster is not a complete impediment to him coming to the big leagues, but at the same time, he's going to have to go out and win a job to get there," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.

At 29 years old, Castillo can't be written off just yet. The Red Sox still owe him $46 million over the next six years. The club's outfield currently has two All-Stars in Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. and a Rookie of the Year candidate in Andrew Benintendi. Chris Young is a solid right-handed hitting option off the bench.

The numbers game is far from Castillo's mind at this point. He needs to learn how to make adjustments if he's going to succeed for the Red Sox or another team.

"It comes down to the consistent offensive production," said Farrell. "What we saw was an attack plan became pretty clear cut against him. So the ability to handle quality Major League stuff ... to both sides of the plate and then the ability to expand some pitches against him. Whether there was some chase involved, that's part of the ongoing adjustment and pursuit for any hitter."

For Craig, the decline started with some bad mechanics that developed while he was playing hurt. But once the foot was better, Craig couldn't sustain any momentum.

The right-handed hitter spent all of last season playing in the Minors, but dealt with back and right knee woes that limited him to 111 at-bats. Unlike Castillo, the Red Sox at least see an end in sight for Craig's contract, which sees him earning $11 million this season and includes a $1 million buyout on the $13 million option in 2018.

"We've searched with Allen to try to create a stronger base, to try to see where he can get back to impacting the baseball," said Farrell. "We also know he's a guy that with his body type and approach, he needs regular at-bats. He's very much a rhythmic hitter."

And the 32-year-old Craig is blocked by the same players as Castillo on the Major League roster.

"Last year, another injury interrupted quite a bit of playing time," Farrell said. "Yeah, it's been an ongoing search and an ongoing chase to get back to the level of power that he showed when he was with St. Louis, and more importantly, it might not translate to home runs, but the ability to drive the ball into the gap. He's always been a very good RBI guy, but that extra-base power has been elusive the last couple years since coming here."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.