Bill Baer

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Rusney Castillo disappoints again by not running out a routine grounder

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The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.

Kyle Schwarber is the frontrunner to bat leadoff for the Cubs

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon says C/OF Kyle Schwarber is the frontrunner to bat leadoff for the team this season, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Schwarber, 23, has hit out of the leadoff spot only eight times in his young career, but the move up the batting order mostly just means more opportunities for him to swing his potent bat. He hit .246/.355/.487 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI in 273 plate appearances in his rookie season in 2015.

Schwarber suffered serious injuries early in the 2016 season when he collided with teammate Dexter Fowler in the Arizona outfield. He tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, which everyone thought ended his 2016 season entirely. However, Schwarber returned for the start of the World Series against the Indians. In 20 plate appearances over five games, Schwarber contributed six singles, a double, and three walks.

Report: Jonathan Villar turned down a contract extension offer from the Brewers

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Brewers “floated” an extension offer around $20 million to infielder Jonathan Villar, but the 25-year-old turned it down.

Villar broke out last season, batting .285/.369/.457 with 19 home runs, 63 RBI, 92 runs scored, and a major league best 62 stolen bases. He also spent some time at third base and second base in the second half after shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia was promoted to the big leagues.

Villar will become eligible for salary arbitration after the 2017 season and can become a free agent after the 2020 season.