Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Westmoreland making progress
By Brendan Hall
None of the doctors Ryan Westmoreland sees has been willing to give him a timetable on his recovery from surgery three months ago to repair a cavernous malformation in his brain stem. But he does have this going for him: the language they've been using.
"The thing I keep hearing from every doctor, they term it remarkable," the 20-year-old Red Sox minor leaguer said Monday afternoon on a conference call, joined by his father, Ron, and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "Only three months out, I'm doing things above the limits of what the doctors thought they'd be. My therapists keep shooting goals for me, and I keep breaking them earlier than expected."
He continued, "I'm definitely getting better. I'm not going to stop setting goals for myself, they keep me going, and I want to keep breaking through those goals earlier than when I set them."
The ultimate goal? Getting back to baseball.
"Oh, that's always the mindset, I'm going to get on the field and play again," Westmoreland said. "That's the ultimate goal, that doesn't change and it never will. Going to watch Pawtucket play, or Portland play, or the big league team play, it just gives you motivation to get to that point."
Ron Westmoreland also said his son has been running and throwing.
The road to full recovery for Westmoreland is expected to be a long one. He says he is currently attending three different kinds of therapy -- physical, occupational and speech -- four days a week, and that the process has been "so far, so good."
"If you had asked me three months ago [to now], the progress has been amazing," Westmoreland said. "Everything I've heard from the doctors, they all say the progress has been amazing. I'm excited to keep it going."
Selected in the fifth round out of Portsmouth (R.I.) High School back in 2008, the five-tool outfielder spurned Vanderbilt, signed with the Red Sox for $2 million and showed a lot of promise in short-season rookie ball in Lowell. Scouts raved about him, musing that he might one day man the No. 3 spot in a lineup. Headed into spring training this year, he was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America.
Westmoreland said there were no headaches, and no immediate pain, back in March, though there were some "red flags" -- namely, numbness -- that warranted an MRI exam.
The results, as one might expect, yielded both fear and surprise at the unknown future.
"I was with one of our trainers during the MRI," he said. "When the doctor showed us the MRI, he was stunned. Neither of us knew what to expect, but we knew it was serious."
He's back home now in Rhode Island, sleeping in his own bed, hanging out with his girlfriend and friends, visiting others and even heading to the movies -- "trying to do exactly what a normal college kid does in the summer," he said.
For Ron, those first weeks were "horrifying," full of sleepless nights. Now?
"Nowadays, to see what he's doing, some running, some throwing, every day's a positive," Ron said. "Every day, I can't wait until after therapy to hear him talk about what he's going through."
Meanwhile, the outpouring of support for Westmoreland in his recovery remains flourishing. Epstein, for one, commented about how "awe-inspiring" it's been to see how Westmoreland and his family have handled this ordeal throughout.
"I never imagined someone could go through this," Epstein said. "It shows what incredible maturity and bravery he has ... it's really interesting to see how an entire organization reacts like a family. You look at them, and you hope they all have a bright future, but when something happens that's life threatening, all the people in the organization do care for him on a personal level.
"We really appreciate what we have as an organization and a family, and Ryan is a big part of our family obviously. It's been a pretty emotional thing for many people in this organization."
Brendan Hall covers high school sports for ESPNBoston.com.