GLENDALE, Ariz — Signed to a two-year, $15 million deal as a free agent this winter, Welington Castillo should provide some thump in the middle of the lineup, but he’s also a welcome veteran presence behind the plate for an up-and-coming pitching staff.
Castillo has been getting to know pitchers’ stuff in bullpen sessions, both physical and mental, during the first week of spring training.
Of top prospect Michael Kopech and probable rotation piece Carson Fulmer, Castillo said, “they are really young, and the most problems they’re going to have are mental.’’
“They just get a little bit frustrated about making a pitch,’’ Castillo said. “All I said is, ‘Hey, stay focused. It’s your first pen.’ ’’
Castillo, 30, batted .282 with a .490 slugging percentage, 20 home runs and 53 RBI for the Orioles last season. He led all major-league catchers by throwing out 44.4 percent of base-stealers.
Working with pitchers is his main focus, especially early in camp. And there are a lot to get to know.
“The more I catch them, the more I talk to them, that relationship will come out,’’ he said.
There’s room for more
The Sox have room on the 40-man roster, but Rick Hahn did not sound like a general manager with his shopping shoes on Tuesday.
“We’re having conversations with clubs, and there are a few free agents floating around, but we’re preparing right now [to] choose the 25 from the group that’s in camp,’’ Hahn said.
That said, “if an opportunity arises for a piece that fits long term, we won’t hesitate to move on that,’’ Hahn said.
The Sox signed left-hander Hector Santiago to a minor-league deal last week, and that type of addition “to round out the roster a little bit in a way that makes sense” is a possibility, Hahn said.
The Sox’ payroll figures to be a modest $70 million right now. Asked if in rebuild mode they would ‘spend a little money’ for a bigger piece, such as a designated hitter or outfielder, Hahn said, “the finances are there if we see the right move. There are no economic restrictions, but it’s a matter of getting the right fit on the right term.’’
First baseman Casey Gillaspie, a Tampa Bay Rays first-round pick in 2014, came to the Sox in a July trade for left-hander Dan Jennings and is looking to re-establish himself after a down year in 2017. Ranked 74th on Baseball America’s preseason 2017 list, Gillaspie slipped out of the top 100 after slashing .223/.297/.373 between Durham and Charlotte last season.
Gillaspie’s mix of power and plate discipline have been his calling card, and he did hit 15 homers in 2017. But the Sox are hoping Gillaspie can put it all back together in 2018.
A change of scenery might be what the 6-4, 240-pound switch hitter needs.
“It’s good to be in this situation,’’ Gillaspie said. “I know what they’re trying to do over here, and anything I can do to help out. I can help out with my bat and defensively. I’m kind of waiting for them to tell me what they want me to do and what they expect from me.’’
Prospect Basabe arrives early, looks to bounce back
Outfield prospect Luis Basabe, acquired in the Chris Sale trade, struggled at Class A Winston-Salem last season, hitting .221/.320/.320 with five homers and 17 stolen bases in 107 games. But he remains a high-ceiling prospect with a mix of speed and power and ability to play center field. It’s highly possible a left knee that required surgery after the season affected him.
“A little bit,” he said.
“It was a bad year with the bat, but I tried to learn from it, and I think I can get going. I was a little tired, too. I have to get better preparation; that’s why this year I came early to spring training. We’re working on it.’’