Rusney Castillo watched four pitches in the third inning, none of which came close to the plate.

So we know he’s not a wild swinger.

But Castillo does know what to do when a hanging curveball comes across the outside part of the plate, like the first pitch he faced in the fifth inning Friday night.

Castillo lined a double to the right-field corner for an RBI double. Then, getting a big lead, he easily scored on a single to center.

He hits. He runs. He is the next great hope for the Boston Red Sox.

Castillo, 27, made his New England debut Friday night before a crowd of 5,034 at Hadlock Field, along with a press box filled with media mostly from Boston, and interested spectators in the box seats, like Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington.


Boston signed Castillo on Aug. 23 to a $72.5 million contract for the rest of this year, plus six more seasons. Castillo defected from Cuba last December and the Red Sox are banking on him following in the recent success of other Cubans in the major leagues.

On Friday, Castillo played only his fourth game in over a year. He suited up for two games with Boston’s rookie Gulf Coast League team, and now two for the Sea Dogs.

“It’s exciting to watch him play,” Portland second baseman Sean Coyle said. “The dude is built like a football player. He obviously can run. He hits with power. (In batting practice) he sprays line drives all over the field.”

Castillo, 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, showed off that speed Friday, along with the line drives.

First inning: Lined to center.

Third: Walked. He then was running on a pitch and would have had second base stolen except for a groundout at first base.


Fifth: Castillo went the other way, doubling in a run, and then scored.

Seventh: Lined a single to center field. Went to second on another single. Then, on Coyle’s ground single to shallow left, raced around third and beat the throw home to give Portland a 4-3 lead.

Castillo left after the seventh inning, going 2 for 3 with a walk, double, RBI and two runs.

“Every at-bat was a good at-bat,” said Sea Dogs Manager Billy McMillon, after emphasizing it was too early to make an in-depth judgment. “He hit the ball hard three times. Definitely not lacking in the tools department.”

Castillo enjoyed jumping into playoff competition.

“He loves the atmosphere,” said Laz Gutierrez, a Red Sox minor league coordinator who served as Castillo’s interpreter. “He’s excited about helping these guys win a championship.”


Red Sox fans would love to hear him say that while in Boston.

Castillo’s signing continued Cherington’s effort to rebuild an offense that was first in runs in the American League in 2013 and is now last.

Previously, Cherington traded for Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban who originally signed with the A’s for four years, $36 million in 2012.

Cespedes had 23 home runs that year and has 21 this season.

The Dodgers signed a Cuban, Yasiel Puig, in 2012 for seven years and $42 million. He’s hitting .296 with 13 home runs.

And before this season, the White Sox signed another Cuban, Jose Abreu, for six years, $68 million. He looks to be a steal, hitting .322 this season with 33 home runs.


All that guarantees nothing when it comes to Castillo, but the Red Sox believe he’s worth the risk.

They signed a 27-year-old center fielder for six years at $72.5 million.

Last year they let a 30-year-old center fielder walk away when Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees.

The Red Sox got younger at a more affordable pay scale – and maybe even better.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, Portland fans are getting a peek at the potential.

“It’s going to be interesting to see him continue to get acclimated to baseball here in the States, and as the levels get better, to see how he competes,” McMillon said. “All early indications are that he’s going to be fine.”

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