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Westmoreland remains optimistic

Westmoreland remains optimistic

DENVER -- Top Red Sox outfield prospect Ryan Westmoreland, who has been through a lot over the last three months, sounded upbeat on Wednesday as he held his first conference call since undergoing surgery to repair a cavernous malformation in his brain back in March.

The 20-year-old Westmoreland -- who spoke to reporters by phone along with his father Ron and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein -- is currently living at his home in Portsmouth, R.I., and is progressing well with therapy.

"It's four days a week," Westmoreland said. "The therapy consists of physical therapy, occupational therapy, which is your everyday kind of things, and then speech therapy also. Four days out of the week I'm doing those three and so far, so good, and I'm excited to continue it."

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The recovery process has come with its share of challenges -- both emotionally and physically -- but Westmoreland is currently very enthused by how he is doing.

"I feel a lot better," Westmoreland said. "If you asked me three months ago, the progress has been amazing. I heard from a bunch of doctors and the progress has been remarkable. I'm just excited to keep it going."

In some ways, it has been a normal summer for Westmoreland, who has spent a lot of time with his girlfriend, his parents and other family members and friends. But the one thing that has been missing is baseball.

Westmoreland -- a native Rhode Islander -- has attended games at Double-A Portland, Triple-A Pawtucket and several Sox games at Fenway.

"I definitely enjoy going to the games and getting to watch them," said Westmoreland. "They're my favorite team anyway -- besides the fact that I'm playing for [the Red Sox in] the Minor Leagues. It's just great to go out and watch baseball. At the same time, I do miss it, getting to see those games, and then to picture yourself out there, it's tough to see yourself on the sidelines. At the same time, I've come to terms with what I've gone through and I know it's going to take a while but I'm ready for it."

There is no timetable for Westmoreland to resume playing the game that he loves. But he is confident he will resume his career path once he fully recovers from brain surgery.

"From the doctor's point of view, not one of them has set a timetable as to when I'm going to get back to playing," Westmoreland said. "I can think in my head, I'm really confident. And going to see the Portland games and the Minor League games and the Boston games just gives me that extra motivation and confidence that I'm going to get back again but as far as the timetable, I'm not really sure. I'm just really focused on the next day ahead and just trying to get better every day."

Westmoreland has done only the lightest of baseball activity to this point -- playing catch and doing some running. His main focus now is on his overall health.

One thing that has kept his spirits high is an outpouring of support from fans, family, friends, teammates and the Red Sox organization.

"It's been amazing, it really has," Westmoreland said. "Ever since we kind of released what was going on, I've been getting non-stop messages and e-mails from people I do know, as well as people I don't know. The support has been great."

The news of his diagnosis was jarring -- as it would be for any 20-year-old.

"Well, initially, to be honest, I didn't really know what was going on," Westmoreland said. "I knew it was a serious situation but before that situation, I felt great going into Spring Training. I felt really strong and when that news kind of hit, I didn't honestly know what to expect and things kind of went on from there and I learned more, I gained more knowledge about the whole situation I was going through and it started out not knowing much and it really kind of went downhill just knowing everything and knowing all the risks and what was going on. But I tried to keep an even head about it and stay positive."

His parents tried to do the same thing. It wasn't always easy, though.

"There was certainly some, at the beginning, some very tough days and nights and tough weeks but once the surgery happened and he came out of it OK and over the next few days in ICU, we saw some progress and even the second day in ICU, he actually got up and walked down the hall," said Ron Westmoreland. "From that day forward, we got to a point where it just became an everyday positive where we could see the progress and nowadays, seeing what he's doing and actually being out on a field and doing some running and throwing and things like that, every day is positive.

"Every day I can't wait until after therapy to talk to him about what he's gone through. Even though at the beginning, it was very, very difficult, horrifying for us as a family, it got to a point where it was just positive. Every day was positive from that point on."

From an organizational standpoint, the Red Sox have given Westmoreland unconditional support. In doing so, they've become inspired by how a young man has handled a difficult situation.

"The thing that stands out from our end is just how proud we are of Ryan, the courage he's shown, facing the initial diagnosis and the surgery, and the determination he's shown in his recovery," said Epstein. "It's been really awe-inspiring. We got to know Ryan and his family pretty well during the signing process.

"We knew we were getting a great kid from a great family, we knew we were getting someone who could handle adversity, but the type of adversity we were thinking of was a long slump or something like that. You never imagine one of your players having to go through something like this. But every step of the way, he's showed really incredible maturity and bravery, and for us I think right before the initial diagnosis came, it was really interesting to see how the entire organization reacted like a family.

"You look at your players and you think of them as having bright futures, but then when something like this happens that's life threatening, and you see how it impacts all of his teammates, all of his friends, all of the people in the organization who care for him on a personal level, it really makes you appreciate what we have in this organization as a family, and Ryan obviously is a big part of that family.

"So going through this with him was a pretty emotional thing for many people in the organization. We're proud of him and with him and his family every step of the way. And we'll be here for him when he's ready to return to organized baseball."

Westmoreland can't wait for the time when playing baseball is again at the center of his life.

"Oh, that's always the mindset is I'm going to get back on the field and play again," Westmoreland said. "And that's the ultimate goal. You know every day, that doesn't change and it never will. But doing things like going to see Portland play or Pawtucket play or the big league team play, it just gives you that extra motivation you need to want to get to that point."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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