Westmoreland upbeat despite setback

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.”