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Rusney Castillo's Red Sox debut has arrived

The much-hyped Cuban outfielder will start in centerfield in Pittsburgh, giving fans a chance to see Boston's center fielder of the future present.

Dennis Grombkowski

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillowho signed the largest contract ever for a Cuban player, will make his major league debut tonight in Pittsburgh, as initially reported

Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 mllion deal on August 23, had been out of baseball for 18 months during the defection process. Since reaching the deal, Castillo has played in 11 games over three levels of the Boston minor league system, even starting in centerfield -- and leading off with a home run -- for Pawtucket in Tuesday night's Triple-A championship game. Castillo will start in center field again tonight, this time for the big club, as the Red Sox visit the Pirates, who are in the middle of a playoff race.

"He's going to walk into a playoff environment here," manager John Farrell said ( "The goal going in right now, for the games that he's on the field, is for him to just experience the environment."

So while Castillo regains his sea legs in Pittsburgh, fans get a glimpse of Boston's potentially explosive future. The 27 year-old outfielder, like Jose Abreu, last year's big-name defector, arrives in the prime of his career. Castillo, at 5'9", 205 pounds, could be a more powerful Brett Gardner-type, scouts muse. Pairing Castillo's quickness and speed in an outfield with his slugging countryman Yoenis Cespedes represents a major upgrade from the Red Sox' outfield in 2014.

"He's an electric player," Farrell said. "There are a lot of skills here. It's explosive. It's quick twitch. Looking forward to seeing him in this environment."

In another lost Red Sox season (and as the team tries to go from worst to first -- again), fans can identify with Farrell. They're looking forward to it too.