Boston Red Sox: Ryan Westmoreland

Westmoreland still in Spinners' hearts

June, 26, 2014
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LOWELL, Mass. -- Ryan Westmoreland stood near the mound and watched as his father, Ron, threw a perfect strike for the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday night at LeLacheur Park.

The two stood shoulder to shoulder as the fans gave them a standing ovation.

The Lowell Spinners, the Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, honored Westmoreland, a former prospect, by retiring his No 25.

[+] EnlargeRyan Westmoreland
John Corneau/Lowell Spinners.comRyan Westmoreland spent what he called "the greatest summer of my life" with the Spinners in Lowell.
Westmoreland, 24, a native of Portsmouth, R.I., retired from professional baseball in March 2013 after a remarkable recovery from two life-threatening surgeries that stemmed from a cavernous malformation on his brain. The former outfielder was considered a top prospect in the Red Sox organization.

In 2009, Westmoreland was 19 and made his pro debut with the Spinners. He showed incredible promise and finished what he calls “the greatest summer of his life, one he’ll never forget” with a .296 average, 35 RBIs, seven home runs and 19 stolen bases in 60 games for the Spinners.

The following spring, the malformation in his brain began to bleed and he needed emergency surgery on March 16. After a lengthy rehab process, he attempted a comeback, but he suffered another setback and needed a second surgery on July 13, 2012.

On Wednesday, the Spinners honored him as part of “Westmoreland Night” at the ballpark.

“The Spinners have been more than generous throughout my whole career and even after it,” Westmoreland said. “I’m just really honored to be back. Like I said, it was one of the best summers of my life.”

Westmoreland was informed by the Spinners organization last December that his No. 25 would be retired and hang on the right-field wall.

“I was speechless,” he said. “It took months to set in. When I came here in 2009, I was an immature 19-year-old and this organization took me in like family and that’s huge for kid that’s been used to playing in front of 10, 20 people every day. To be able to have an organization have my back, not only when I was playing but now that I’m not, it’s special for me and my family and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

It’s been tough for Westmoreland to forget about baseball. Since he’s decided to retire, he’s focused on the future but admits sometimes it’s unavoidable to think about what could have been.

“I can’t help but think about it, especially doing stuff here in Lowell,” Westmoreland said. “I think about at-bats I had here, games I had here. But for the most part, I’ve moved on. I don’t get two hours of sleep every night thinking about my games here.

“It hasn’t been an easy battle, but I’m doing well and I’m trying to keep my spirits up. It’s obviously tough not playing anymore. I’ve spent my whole life preparing for this dream, so it’s devastating to not fulfill it. But I’m doing well. I’m happy and I’m in a good spot mentally. It’s all I can ask for right now and I’m getting better every day mentally and physically and it can only get better from here.”

He admits he’ll watch a video of him playing baseball and think about the what-ifs.

“Mentally, I’m getting over it. I can’t say I’m fully over it but I’m getting there,” he said.

[+] EnlargeRyan Westmoreland
John Corneau/Lowell Spinners.comRyan Westmoreland poses with Spinners owner Drew Weber and president/GM Tim Bawmann during ceremonies in which his No. 25 was retired.
From a health standpoint, Westmoreland is doing well. He lives with disabilities but he’s learned to live with them and nothing is getting worse. Something Westmoreland has kept to himself since his second surgery is the fact that he experiences double vision.

“I haven’t told anyone, but I see double of everything. I can’t feel anything on my right side, so you can imagine how hard it is to walk when you can’t feel the ground, or hitting with a bat or throwing. But I’m doing well,” he said. “Obviously, at first it was tragic. It was devastating but I’ve gotten over it and I’m doing well. I’ve certainly gotten used to everything that I’m dealing with. I’m just trying to get better every day.”

Westmoreland explained the double vision is a normal side effect to the surgeries he’s had. It occurred after his first procedure but his vision returned to normal after three days. This time around, he’s still waiting for it to correct itself.

“I’m getting used to it,” he said. “I have special [glasses]. I can drive, I can do all that stuff, so it’s not holding me back too much. It’s different. I can’t pick up the spin on a 90 mile-per-hour slider but it’s getting better.”

After he decided to officially retire in March 2013, Westmoreland started online classes at Northeastern University. His primary focus now is getting good grades.

“I’m moving forward with my life, not so much baseball related, but I’m trying to take steps forward,” he said. “I feel good. Right now I feel like I’m getting the ball rolling with my life and we’ll see what the future holds, but I’m optimistic.”

At some point, Westmoreland would like to return to baseball in some capacity because he believes he can teach and serve as an inspiration to others.

Speaking of inspiration, former Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish, who is currently playing for Triple-A Iowa (Chicago Cubs), spent plenty of time with Westmoreland when both were rehabbing a few seasons ago with the Red Sox. The two lived together in Fort Myers, Florida, and any time Kalish, who has dealt with various neck, shoulder and back injuries during his career, felt like he wanted to shut it down, all he would do was think of his buddy, Westy.

“He’s an inspiration to people,” Kalish said in a phone interview. “I’m sure if he could have it a different way he would have it. With that being said, the amount of inspiration that this guy creates for whoever he touches, and he certainly touched me.

[+] EnlargeRyan Westmoreland
John Corneau/Lowell Spinners.comRon Westmoreland, Ryan's father, throws out the first pitch. Ron calls his son "an incredible young man."
“There were times when I was going through things on a personal level that I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I feel like doing this anymore. I’m tired. My body hurts from five surgeries.’ Then I would think that if you gave the same scenario to Westy that I’m in, he would take that any day. So, for me to have that inspiration in my life to think of and reflect on, I don’t know if I would be doing this if it wasn’t for that guy.”

Every athlete -- pro or amateur -- wears a certain jersey number for a reason. Westmoreland has been wearing No. 25 since he was a kid in Little League. He wore it through high school for every sport he played. When he turned pro with the Red Sox, the Spinners gave him No. 25.

When Westmoreland was 11, a friend of his, John Sleeper, was a year older and wore No. 25. A year later, when No. 25 became available, Westmoreland asked his coach for the number. Sleeper was hoping to attend Wednesday’s ceremony, but could not make it. In fact, Sleeper did not realize until Wednesday the reason why Westmoreland wore that number.

“It’s awesome,” Sleeper said in a phone interview. “I was really good friends with Ryan growing up and through high school. I think it’s really cool. I think it’s awesome for him [to have his number retired]. He was such a great prospect and what happened to him was such a terrible thing.”

Sleeper said the reason he began to wear the number as a kid was because Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves was his favorite player, and he wore No. 25.

Prior to Wednesday’s Spinners game, Westmoreland was given a pair of home and away framed No. 25 Lowell jerseys. His dad, mother Robin, sister Sarah and girlfriend Devyn stood at home plate as a video tribute was shown on the board in left field. Former teammates, including Kalish, Pete Ruiz, Alex Hassan, Dan Butler and Christian Vasquez all taped messages for Westmoreland.

As Ryan and his father walked in from the mound after the ceremonial first pitch, there weren’t many dry eyes in the ballpark.

“To have this organization, which was so special to Ryan’s baseball career, recognize him for the person he is and the inspiration he is, is just a tremendous tribute to a kid that I just admire so much,” Ron Westmoreland said. “I’m just happy for him. I’m happy to be here today and I’m grateful to the Red Sox and the Lowell Spinners for really understanding that he’s an incredible young man, and what he’s been through, you just can’t put into words how special this is for all of us.”

In the middle of the second inning, “Westy 25” was unveiled on the right-field wall. It was the first number retired in Lowell Spinners history.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who scouted Westmoreland during his career at Portsmouth High School, attended Wednesday’s ceremony and said he did not want to miss it.

“It was important for me when I heard about it,” said Cherington, the first acting Red Sox GM to visit the Spinners in 10 years. “It was important for me to be here. I wanted to be here and out of the way just to see him out there. I got a chance to catch up with him in the clubhouse a little bit before the game. I’m proud of him. I think everyone is. I’m just really happy for him.”

Added Cherington, “Getting to know him and his family over the years, it’s a different level of happiness and pride to see where he is now. What he’s done is much harder than anything anyone does on a baseball field.”

Cherington: Westmoreland 'special'

March, 6, 2013
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After word spread of Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland's retirement in the wake of two brain surgeries and a inspiring comeback attempt, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington expressed admiration and respect for the talented 22-year-old.

“Ryan is a remarkable young man," he said. "He was an incredibly talented baseball player, a special, special talent as a baseball player, and we got to know him more as a person after the first incident a few years back and we’ve come to learn that he’s an even more special person. Today’s decision by him was something we knew was coming and we’ve been talking to him. We just couldn’t be more impressed by a human being than we are by Ryan, and the way he’s handled this, the grace he’s shown, he’s inspired a lot of people."

Cherington spoke of Westmoreland's great potential, and of his first impressions of the Portsmouth (R.I.) High School standout.

"Just an elite talent," he said. "I got to see him first in high school at Portsmouth. That summer, when he was playing, he got better every time you saw him. There was truly not much he couldn’t do on the field, and he was a really smart kid, and just a good family, from New England, the whole thing. [We were] really excited to sign him and he showed a lot early in his time with the Red Sox. Like I said, and I told this to Ryan the other day, you know, for some reason some people don’t get dealt the same hand, and some of those hands are unfair and he got dealt a bad hand. But there’s a path for him he’s going to find, and there’s going to be a lot of happiness in his future and I can’t imagine anyone else handling this the way he did."

Westmoreland has expressed interest in returning to college and then eventually working in baseball, and Cherington acknowledged that the young man has "an intellectual capability to help a team."

“I think it’s something he does down the road if that’s something he wants to do," said Cherington. "I think most importantly, the first step for him is maybe take a step away in the short term, and really figure out the path that makes sense for him and we’ll support him in doing that. I know he wants to go to college, that’s important, no matter where his path leads him. ... But if baseball is something he wants to be a part of his future down the road, he certainly has an intellectual capability to help a team."

Cherington added that the Red Sox will stay in touch with Westmoreland and help him pursue the next chapter in his life.

"The relationships will certainly remain and we’ll help him any way we can," he said. "And I do believe, if he wants to pursue baseball down the road, he’ll have that opportunity. I was in scouting when he signed, then I was an assistant GM and now I’m GM, but taking all those hats aside, as a friend of Ryan I think it’s best to take a little time away from the Red Sox."

Rehabbing Kalish inspired by 'Westy'

March, 6, 2013
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Boston Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish has experienced both great success and disappointment in his professional career. Injuries and surgeries in the past two years have detoured him, but he realizes his goal to become a full-time big-leaguer remains a possibility and he has good friend Ryan Westmoreland to thank for that.

On Wednesday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., the two friends sat in the trainer’s room at the Red Sox spring training facility. In only a few hours, Westmoreland would announce his retirement from pro baseball, and he never mentioned anything to Kalish about it.

“That’s the kind of guy he is,” Kalish said in a phone interview with ESPNBoston.com. “That’s the thing with Westy, man, it’s one of those things where you can’t even tell when something’s gone bad for him. We were talking in the training room and he was asking me how I was doing and he didn’t even mention [retirement]. It’s truly unbelievable the kind of guy he is. That’s Westy right there.”

Westmoreland, 22, a former top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was forced to retire after two life-threatening brain surgeries ravaged his body and stole his ability to play baseball at the highest level.

When Kalish returned home from the ballpark Wednesday afternoon, he read Westmoreland’s statement online.

“It’s sad,” Kalish said. “It gets you all choked up inside.”

Prior to his first surgery on March 16, 2010, Westmoreland was a five-tool player with a direct path to the big leagues. He was one of many skilled players in the Red Sox development system, including Kalish, Josh Reddick (now with the Oakland Athletics) and Will Middlebrooks.

"He was born to be a big-leaguer,” Kalish said. “He had all that skill, and honestly, I think he was better than everybody else, but you never would have known. It’s a real tragic event, but I really think he will have an opportunity to do something really special with the rest of his life. He’s already provided me with inspiration.”

There have been plenty of days since his two shoulder surgeries and neck surgery, along with the grueling rehabilitation that followed, when Kalish felt about giving up on his dream of playing full time in the big leagues. But all he had to do was think of his friend Ryan.

“I know he wouldn’t quit if he were me,” Kalish said. “So I’m not going to. He’s provided inspiration already and he probably doesn’t know it.”

Kalish said he plans to share his gratitude soon with his good friend.

Westmoreland wants to attend college and pursue his degree. He also hopes to return to baseball in some capacity.

"He can do anything. His personality is top of the charts,” Kalish said. “He was born to be a baseball player, but there is something higher for him out there and we’re going to find out what it is. I’m excited to see what he does because he’ll put his energy into something else now and he’ll be really good at that.”

Westmoreland retires due to health

March, 6, 2013
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Ryan Westmoreland, a former top prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization who underwent two brain surgeries, announced his retirement from professional baseball on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Rhode Island native has made a remarkable recovery from the two life-threatening surgeries that stemmed from a cavernous malformation on his brain. The former outfielder and Portsmouth High School standout attempted a comeback in the Red Sox minor league system before deciding to retire.

“With a clear mind and heart, as well as the unwavering support and friendship of my family, friends, agent(s), doctors, therapists and the Boston Red Sox, I have decided to voluntarily retire as a professional baseball player,” he wrote in an e-mail to ESPNBoston.com, the Providence Journal, and WEEI.com. “Although it is a very difficult decision for me, it has become clear that the neurological damage caused by the most recent cavernous malformation and surgery leaves me with physical challenges that make it impossible to play the game at such a high level.

[+] EnlargeRyan Westmoreland
John Corneau/Lowell SpinnersIn 2009, Westmoreland hit .296 with seven home runs, 35 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases in 60 games for the Spinners.
“In my heart, I know that I have worked as hard as one possibly could to overcome the obstacles presented by this unfortunate series of events. It is with that confidence that I am comfortable turning the page, and searching for 'the reason' that this has happened. I believe that there is a plan for me that will utilize my experiences, however painful some may have been, to do something special in my life. It is time for me to find that path, and to pursue it with the same focus and effort that I pursued the dream of playing professional baseball.”

After the Red Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Westmoreland quickly showed promise as a five-tool player. In 2009, he showcased those abilities at Single-A Lowell and hit .296 with seven home runs, 35 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases in 60 games for the Spinners.

But in spring 2010, the malformation in his brain began to bleed and Westmoreland needed emergency surgery on March 16. During his recovery, the goal of returning to professional baseball helped him battle through the life-changing rehab.

He suffered a setback last summer and needed a second surgery on July 13.

“Regardless of this result, I have been very fortunate throughout my professional career and the last three years of recovery and rehabilitation. I have met sincere, caring people that have believed in me and have helped me to stay focused on the task at hand. I will never be able to adequately thank the wonderful people in the Boston Red Sox organization, that continued to support me and my family throughout all of this.

“From the time of the initial diagnosis, it was never about the baseball. They cared for me as a person... a member of their family, and their focus was entirely on my physical and emotional well being. I have met so many players that have been there for me, that I know will continue to be my friends long past this. I have had access to the best hospitals, doctors, surgeons, therapists and others that without their professional advice and treatment would never be where I am today.

“Octagon has always been more than a sports agent to me, they are friends that were there in every hospital or whenever I needed them for support and advice. The media has been fair and sensitive to me throughout this, and I am grateful for that. Through that media, I have been blessed to receive support and encouragement from so many people from all over, that although I don’t know them have been instrumental in driving me to accomplish all that is possible.

“And finally, my family and friends have been by my side and have supported whatever it is that I wanted to pursue. It has been a difficult road for all of them, yet they have managed to stay strong and keep me focused on the next goal. I have no doubt their support will continue to drive me towards the next.”

Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, a cancer survivor, said he empathizes with Westmoreland and wishes him well.

“Its obviously tough," he said. "I think he’s what, 22? Tough deal. I can imagine probably right around the same age as me going through that. Just calling it quits, that’s gotta be tough. But I wish him the best of luck. Hopefully he can still pursue something in baseball and be involved. He’s a good kid. Just the little bit I got to talk to him, obviously the circumstances where I got to know him were different than him just being a baseball player, that was tough. I can say I wish him and his family nothing but the best and hopefully something will work out for him where he can still pursue his dream of being in the big leagues at some level with a baseball team."

Westmoreland, who had turned down a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt in order to sign with the Red Sox, has decided to pursue his college degree in hopes of returning to baseball in some capacity in the future.

Current Triple-A Pawtucket manger Gary DiSarcina, who managed Westmoreland in Lowell, recently said the door would always be open if Westmoreland wanted to someday work for him.

Westmoreland upbeat despite setback

December, 11, 2012
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BOSTON -- On July 13, 2012, Red Sox minor league outfielder Ryan Westmoreland underwent a life-threatening surgery due to complications of a cavernous malformation on his brain.

The Portsmouth, R.I., native first had surgery to remove the malformation on March 16, 2010. Between surgeries, Westmoreland slowly began his goal of returning to the baseball field and served as an inspiration to the other prospects in the Red Sox organization.

Since his setback last summer, Westmoreland is doing well and continues to rehab in Boston and Rhode Island.

“Really good, actually,” he said. “I’ve been seeing some doctors and nothing but good news, which is what I want to hear. I’m making good progress.”

After the Red Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Westmoreland quickly showed promise as a five-tool player. In 2009, he showcased those abilities at Single-A Lowell and hit .296 with seven home runs, 35 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 60 games for the Spinners.

But in spring 2010, the malformation in his brain began to bleed and Westmoreland needed emergency surgery. During his recovery, the goal of playing professional baseball again helped him battle through the life-changing rehab.

It’s no different this time.

“I’m always thinking about [baseball],” he said. “But we’re going to take it slow again and kind of play it by ear and see how I’m feeling. Hopefully I get to go down to Florida and they can evaluate me down there. I hope I get to go down there by February. That’s what I’m shooting for, but again, I’ll confirm that with the doctors and the medical staff, but that’s what I’m hoping for.

“In a way it’s the same, but it’s pretty serious stuff and the second time around made it a lot harder. Again, I’ve been able to take a step back and I’m partially learning from the last time I’ve been able to take a step back and realize what’s the highest priority and go from there. There’s no question about my drive and I’m definitely still optimistic about my future.”

Having dealt with two life-threatening brain surgeries, Westmoreland says he’s better prepared to deal with it this time around. He also realizes he’s in a different situation than most pro athletes and the last two and half years have been difficult. Despite all he’s dealt with, he has an amazing outlook.

“It’s certainly frustrating,” he said. “Being what I’ve been through is not your average baseball injury, so that was kind of tough. It’s not like having Tommy John or a labrum tear, it’s a lot more serious than that. It’s tough as an athlete, but you have to take a step back and be thankful for what you have. Being alive, certainly at this point, is more important than being a professional athlete.”

Video: Westmoreland's fight back

April, 13, 2011
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ESPN's "E:60" took an in-depth look at the fight back from brain surgery by Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland, who isn't giving up his dream of playing at Fenway Park.

The segment includes extensive interviews with Ryan and his family, never-before-seen photos and home videos from the Westmorelands and even a look at the surgical procedure that saved Ryan's life.

To read Joe McDonald's feature on Westmoreland's comeback, click here.

Westmoreland showing progress

February, 21, 2011
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It’s been almost one year since Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland underwent surgery on March 16 to remove a cavernous malformation on his brain stem.

His recovery is nothing short of miraculous, and the 20-year-old outfielder is back at spring training and has been taking on-field batting practice the last few days. He says he feels good.

“Doctors didn’t think I would be able to take BP this early,” he said Monday afternoon.

The Portsmouth, R.I., native is scheduled to travel to Boston for an examination on Tuesday with the team’s neurologist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. He’ll be back in camp later this week.

He was diagnosed with the malformation after experiencing headaches and numbness during spring training last year. He left Boston's minor league camp on March 4 and was examined at Massachusetts General Hospital the next day. After consultations with three specialists, the decision was made to have the surgery, which was performed by Robert Spetzler in Arizona.

The Red Sox selected Westmoreland in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. Last summer, Westmoreland attended a few Red Sox games at Fenway Park, and said his goal was to play at Double-A Portland in 2011. He's still considered a player on rehab at this point, but if there's one person who can accomplish that goal, it's definitely Westmoreland.

Westmoreland continues to make progress

January, 19, 2011
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NEWTON, Mass. -- It’s been almost a full calendar year since Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland needed surgery to remove a mass of cells known as a cavernous malformation from his brain stem.

The Portsmouth, R.I., native is doing amazingly well as he continues his rehab at the team’s player development complex in Fort Myers, Fla. The 20-year-old outfielder has been hitting, throwing and working out.

“He’s doing well,” Mike Hazen, the Red Sox’s director of player development, said during a rookie development workout at Boston College's Alumni Stadium on Wednesday morning. “We’re not going to make any predictions, or put him on a timeframe when he’s actually going to come out and play in a game, we’re taking it day by day.”

Westmoreland continues to make steady progress.

“It’s still going to take a little while to get him back to where he was, but we’re still confident and optimistic,” Hazen said. “I’ve said before, if you’re betting on any one person to get back and make it to that place, it’s him.

“You would be amazed in the amount of drive in this kid given what he’s had and the setbacks and all the things he’s had to go through. It’s inspiring and you just hope he’ll be able to take the field again one day because you know how bad he wants it.”

Once spring training begins, Westmoreland will remain on a rehab progression.

Report: Westmoreland to join teams

August, 22, 2010
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Red Sox outfielder Ryan Westmoreland, who underwent brain surgery in March, is set to continue his rehab with the Lowell Spinners and Greenville Drive in the coming weeks, Sox farm director Mike Hazen told WEEI.com.

According to the report, the 20-year-old Westmoreland, who underwent surgery to repair a cavernous malformation of the brain stem, has been able to increase his baseball activities to the point where he has been running, throwing and taking some swings. He is set to do those things with Single-A Lowell of the New York Penn League (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) and Single-A Greenville of the South Atlantic League (Sept. 3-6) while also getting reacclimated to a team setting.

Westmoreland returns to Fenway Park

June, 29, 2010
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BOSTON –- Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland visited Fenway Park for the third time this season with his family, and each time he has received a hero’s welcome.

Westmoreland, 20, who was selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round (172nd overall) of the 2008 draft, had brain surgery three months ago and is slowly recovering. Returning to baseball is his goal, but living a normal everyday life is more important right now.

In addition to visiting Fenway, he’s been able to go to Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland just to keep him involved and close with the organization has he continues to rehab.

“It feels great, even watching on TV is great,” he said. “But just to come here it’s good to hang out with the guys and sit in the dugout with my family and girlfriend. It’s a good experience and definitely different than being in the stands or in the [luxury] box, but to be down here is special.”

Westmoreland has returned to baseball activities and once a week he and a physical therapist go to Cardines Field in Newport, R.I., which is just a hit-and-run away from his hometown of Portsmouth. He’s been able to play catch at 60 feet and run the bases.

“My accuracy is pretty close to 100 and I’ve been doing a few home-to-home around the bases and hard sprints to first,” Westmoreland explained. “It’s good just because two weeks ago I couldn’t do that kind of stuff and to be doing it now, and feeling good about it, and feeling good afterward, I have the feeling of getting in a good workout.

“It’s special because I know I’m closer and every time I get to do some more, it’s one step closer to my ultimate goal,” he said.

Westmoreland doesn’t have to come to Fenway to hear from his friends. He continually receives emails, text messages and phone calls from his baseball buddies.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s great because I know they are thinking about me. It’s definitely special.”
The Red Sox on Tuesday relayed some good news about outfield prospect Ryan Westmoreland: He was released Saturday from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where he had been recovering after surgery in March to remove a cavernous malformation on his brain.

According to the Red Sox, Westmoreland will continue to undergo physical and occupational therapy as an outpatient at Spaulding. He has been making steady progress and is in great spirits.

Statement from Westmoreland family

April, 9, 2010
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The agents for Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland released the following statement from the family on the condition of the 19-year-old Rhode Island native, who had brain surgery in mid-March:

“We greatly appreciate the privacy that we have had to this point. This privacy has allowed Ryan to focus entirely on his rehabilitation and we believe this has helped him make significant progress in a short period of time. The next few weeks are very important to Ryan’s recovery. We prefer to maintain this level of privacy until Ryan is further along in the rehabilitation process. We appreciate your understanding.

There are still many unanswered questions, but we are confident that with Ryan’s strength, courage and determination, along with the great support of his doctors and therapists, he will continue toward a successful recovery. We know that the road of rehabilitation will be long, hard and frustrating at times, but with continued patience and faith, everything will be ok. His spirits are great and his outlook is positive. As proud as we are of so many things Ryan has done in his young life, we have never been, and never will be, more proud of him for the courage he has shown during his recovery.

In the days after Ryan first experienced symptoms in early March, he was fortunate to consult with some of the leading neurosurgeons in the world. Ultimately, he was led to what we believe is the best medical staff in the world for this procedure, Dr. Robert Spetzler and his team at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Dr. Spetzler’s handling of this dangerous and delicate procedure not only gave Ryan a chance at a normal life, but in fact, saved his life. For that, we cannot adequately express our gratitude. The Neuro Rehabilitation Unit there, and at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, have paved the way for his recovery. We recognize those therapists and staff as being among the best in their field and crucial to Ryan’s recovery. We expect Ryan will remain at Spaulding Hospital for a short period of time and then transition to out-patient therapy.

We have always been very proud to be Boston Red Sox fans, but over the course of this time, that pride has increased ten-fold and is unrelated to the game of baseball. The ownership, management, staff, players and fans have shown a genuine compassion, sensitivity, professionalism and thorough support which has proven to be immeasurable. We are so fortunate to have their support and hope that knowing this, all of Red Sox Nation can realize this same pride in rooting for such a caring organization.

The overall support for Ryan during this period has been amazing. The thoughts and prayers of so many family, friends and many others that we have never even met, have given us confidence that the progress we have seen over such a short period of time will continue. Members of the MLB fraternity, both executives and players, have taken time to be by Ryan’s side and have shown class and support while offering an encouragement that is truly special.

We wish that we could individually address every message that has been sent our way through thought and prayer, but that would be difficult. Please know that we are very grateful and recognize them all for their kindness and sincerity. On behalf of Ryan, and our entire immediate and extended families, thank you.”

Westmoreland in the house

April, 4, 2010
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Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland, the 19-year-old Rhode Island native who underwent five hours of brain surgery March 16, was at Fenway Park for Sunday night's home opener, seated in the organization's luxury box.

He was shown on the NESN broadcast.

A club source said Sunday that Westmoreland, with the assistance of a wheelchair, was also able to attend a Padres spring training game. Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod was the Sox scouting director who drafted Westmoreland on the sixth round in 2008, and said the outfielder had more upside than any player he had drafted in five years as Sox scouting director.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Terry Francona needed extra outfielders for Tuesday night’s game with the Minnesota Twins, so the call went down to the minor-league complex for two kids to fill in for Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom were due for a night off.

Under different circumstances, one of those call-ups almost certainly would have been Ryan Westmoreland, the 19-year-old Red Sox prospect of such great promise.

It was a week ago Tuesday that Westmoreland, a native of Portsmouth, R.I., underwent five hours of brain surgery in a hospital in Phoenix. That night, the team released a statement attributed to the neurosurgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Robert Spetzler, saying that the surgery “went well.”

Last Friday, the team announced that Westmoreland had been released from intensive care and moved to the hospital’s neuro-rehabilitation unit, where he was to undergo physical and occupational therapy.

"Ryan is right on track and we expect progressive improvement," Spetzler said.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, meanwhile, acknowledged in the statement that Westmoreland's recovery process is “long and complicated.’’

There have been no further updates, as team officials have said they are sensitive to the family’s wish for privacy.
[+] EnlargeSavannah Hollis
ESPNBoston.comSavannah Hollis underwent surgery to remove a cavernous angioma from her brain stem, as did Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland.

What might be involved in Westmoreland’s recovery? Savannah Hollis, a 24-year-old student at the University of Texas-Arlington, knows better than most. She contacted ESPN Boston after reading of Westmoreland’s condition and wrote that three years ago, she, too, had undergone surgery to remove a cavernous angioma -- a mulberry-shaped malformation of abnormal blood cells -- from her brain stem.

“I was initially misdiagnosed with a migraine,’’ she wrote, “until the doctor ordered a CT scan when I lost my ability to walk, talk and see. I met with three neurosurgeons that refused to operate on my brain stem, before the chief of neurosurgery at UT-Southwestern, Dr. Duke Samson, agreed to perform my surgery.

“Dr. Samson was super frank with me since I had to make the choice to have the surgery or not. The bad thing is once the lesion bleeds, you face a 20 percent chance of it bleeding again every year for the rest of your life. He said there was a chance that he would get in there but not be able to get to it, that the surgery might set me back worse than the night of my bleed if it didn't kill me, or I could wake up and be completely normal.’’

Hollis’ symptoms were far more advanced than what Westmoreland had experienced, according to sources. He had headaches and some numbness before having a seizure, according to club sources, which caused the Red Sox staff to spring into action.

“When it involves the brain stem,’’ Hollis wrote, “there is no small damage. Once an angioma bleeds, you face a great chance of having another bleed, and due to the location of Ryan's, it can be detrimental. After my bleed, it was four weeks before they could see the lesion, after the blood reabsorbed.

“It takes a while to determine the extent of the bleed, especially in the brain stem, because the nerves are packed so tightly and cover such a large portion of functioning. Before they let him fully take part in any rehab, they probably want to be absolutely sure the location of the angioma is stable, because if it isn't or they missed anything, an increase in blood pressure, altitude, stress, etc., could cause blood to leak into the brain stem.

“They'll do a battery of tests, I'm sure, to test the functioning of his cranial nerves, which exit at the brain stem. Three of mine were damaged, and there is no way of guessing how long it takes for nerves to heal. Since Dr. Spetzler felt comfortable doing the surgery, I'm sure he is just playing it safe. That's usually why they are hesitant to give a prognosis, because the most basic things can cause bleeding, and so it is better to make sure everyone is being cautious until the area can 'settle.'

“It sounds like they don't want to get anyone’s hopes up, but the news is the best you could ask for.’’
Hollis’ surgery was, by any measure, a success.

“I didn't face any setbacks due to the surgery,’’ she wrote. “It was successful at removing the angioma, according to all of the follow-up MRIs. After surgery, I returned to therapy. I can walk normally, my vision returned and my voice came back.

“The longest-lasting thing in my case was that the location of my bleed was where several of the cranial nerves exit the brain. The muscles in my throat and the rear of my mouth suffered, and I had a feeding tube until last August (three years) because the opening of my esophagus closed in protection mode that night, and healed slower than everything else.

“My voice is fine, and I can finally eat normally, as long as I don't get in a hurry.’’

Hollis said she is due to graduate this spring with a degree in biology. In the last couple of weeks, she said, she has begun running and jogging in advance of a run to raise awareness for angiomas, to be held in Dallas on March 27 (www.AwarenessFunRun.myevent.com).

“My doctors and physical therapists told me repeatedly that my health before my 'stroke' was the main thing contributing to my recovery,’’ she wrote. “It helps speed up your recovery exponentially. I am working on my fine motor coordination, and exercise physiologists tell me plyometrics are the best for nerve/muscle response repair.’’

Hollis said she thinks of Westmoreland and his family often.

“I would love to send my support for Ryan and his family,’’ she wrote, “as I am sure they are dealing with frustration, anger and unanswered questions.

“To make it this far in baseball shows he's determined and strong. That pays off much more than you would think, when a therapist is griping at you at 7 a.m. to get out of bed to walk up and down stairs. Ryan and his family have plenty of prayers and well wishes being sent their way.’’

Doctor: Westmoreland 'right on track'

March, 19, 2010
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland is out of intensive care after undergoing five hours of brain surgery Tuesday, and his surgeon expressed encouragement at his progress, according to a statement released by the team Friday night.

Westmoreland, who underwent surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Ariz., has been transferred into the hospital's neuro-rehabilitation unit, according to Dr. Robert Spetzler, who performed the surgery.

There, Spetzler said, the 19-year-old Rhode Island native will undergo physical and occupational therapy.

"Ryan is right on track and we expect progressive improvement," Spetzler said.

To date, the team has not released any information detailing what neurological functions, if any, were impacted as a result of the cavernous malformation that was removed from his brain stem. A cavernous malformation, or angioma, is a congenital condition comprised of an abnormal cluster of capillaries, or tiny blood vessels.

The likelihood is that a few more days are required before doctors can make a full assessment of Westmoreland's condition, according to one source with direct knowledge of the player's surgery.

But the Red Sox are greatly encouraged by Spetzler's early assessment.

"We are thrilled for Ryan and his family that the surgery went so well," general manager Theo Epstein said in the statement. "While we recognize that the recovery process is long and complicated, we are excited that all of the early indications are so positive. On behalf of the Westmoreland family, we thank everybody who has expressed concern and support for Ryan."

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