FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) The Boston Red Sox optioned Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, clearing the way for Mookie Betts to start in center field.
With a glut of outfielders in spring training, the Red Sox finally pared down the group. They will begin the regular season with Hanley Ramirez in left field, Betts in center and Shane Victorino in right.
Daniel Nava and Allen Craig are likely to remain on the major league roster and can play the outfield as well.
Castillo, who signed a $72.5 million, seven-year contract with Boston last year after defecting from Cuba, missed two weeks of spring training with a sore oblique muscle.
Bradley, a standout defender, struggled at the plate last season.
Betts, a touted prospect and converted infielder who made a successful big league debut last year, began the day batting .458 in spring training. He was tied for the Grapefruit League lead with 22 hits.
''I think we have a number of guys who are going to start the season in Pawtucket who have the chance to finish in Boston,'' Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. ''Rusney and Jackie are two of them. Those are tough conversations when you have guys who are good guys who you believe in. It's a good thing for us that they have that kind of talent. We know that more than likely, over the course of this season, we are going to rely on those guys.''
Boston manager John Farrell said he would not be surprised to see Bradley or Castillo - or both - in the big leagues later this season.
''Both guys have had very good springs,'' Farrell said. ''With Rusney's situation, he came in and missed time because of the oblique. But he has done everything we've asked of him, and that goes back to the day we signed him. He's an exciting young player.''
Bradley's situation was impacted when the team signed Ramirez to play left field, Farrell said.
Bradley batted .198 with one homer and 30 RBIs in 127 big leagues games last season. He is a .290 career hitter in the minors.
''What's clearly happened is our roster has changed dramatically from a year ago,'' Farrell said. ''I think Jackie's done a good job of making adjustments at the plate. There's a swing he has gotten back to, and it's a swing he has used for most of his baseball career. I think he has closed up some holes that he had a year ago.''
Boston also reassigned right-hander Dalier Hinojosa, shortstop Devin Merrero and catcher Matt Spring to the minor leagues.
The Red Sox have 38 players in camp, which includes seven non-roster invites and catcher Christian Vazquez, who had season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Thursday and was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
The operation was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola.