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Westmoreland is ready for game action

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / December 6, 2011
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DALLAS - The focus was on Ryan Westmoreland having some semblance of a normal life when a surgical team in Arizona removed a formation of damaged blood vessels from his brain stem in early 2009.

Whether the Rhode Island native could return to baseball was secondary. The multiskilled outfielder was considered the top prospect in the Red Sox organization at the time of his surgery, but no doctor would hazard a guess whether he would play again.

Nearly two years later, Westmoreland is ready to take the field. He has been cleared to play and is in the Dominican Republic preparing to take part in an intrasquad game at the team facility Thursday or Friday as the designated hitter.

“It’s incredibly inspiring,’’ general manager Ben Cherington said yesterday. “He’s persevered and I’m sure there were some days when it was hard to persevere. He’s battled through it.

“It’s a remarkable story. We still don’t know the end of the story. There’s too much unknown. The fact that he’s going to have a helmet on and get in the batter’s box and have a pitcher facing him and not know what’s coming, that’s pretty cool.’’

Westmoreland, who turns 22 in April, has been slowly building up to this moment by taking live batting practice in recent months. Facing game-condition pitching is the next step. If Westmoreland passes that test, he could join a minor league team next season.

“That was something that was really important to him as a benchmark, at the end of the 2011 season he wanted to have had an at-bat and gotten into a game. This was the way the calendar worked. This was the way we could do it,’’ Cherington said.

Tiant denied

Former Red Sox All-Star Luis Tiant received little support from the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee. According to the Hall of Fame, he received less than three votes from the 16-member panel, well short of the 12 required for induction.

The 71-year-old Tiant is not eligible for that ballot again for another three years.

Tiant played for the Sox from 1971-78, winning 122 games. He was 229-172 with a 3.30 earned run average over 19 seasons with six teams.

Former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo was the only person selected by the committee.

Lasorda goes to bat

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda has long been Bobby Valentine’s biggest advocate. They met in 1968 when Valentine played for Lasorda in the minors in Ogden, Utah. Bill Buckner and Steve Garvey were on that team, too.

Lasorda said he knew back then Valentine had the intelligence to become a manager and is certain Valentine will succeed in Boston.

“I’ve seen him plan for a game. I’ve never seen many managers do that. He can plan for that game as good as anybody I’ve ever seen,’’ Lasorda said. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm and what he’s got to do is . . . get them all to play for the name on the front of their shirt and not for the name on the back of their shirt. If he can do that, then he’ll be successful.’’

Lasorda said Valentine can solve the chemistry issues that were revealed when the Sox collapsed in September.

“That’s the ability that the manager has to have, to be able to put them all together. You have to get them all on one end of the rope and pull together,’’ he said. “If you do that, you’re going to have success. You have to make them believe they’re the best in baseball and he can do that.’’

Rays manager Joe Maddon also had praise for Valentine.

“I’m really happy for him,’’ Maddon said. “Gotten to be friends with him over the last couple of years as he’s been a broadcaster, and we’ve been fortunate to be in the playoffs, have had some really good conversations with Bobby, so I don’t know him that well outside of that.

“I think it’s very interesting, I think it makes our division even more interesting. I’m not going to say better because I’m not going to denigrate [former Red Sox manager Terry Francona]. I thought Tito did a great job while he was there, and I have a lot of respect for him, a ton of respect for him. It’s just a different scenario there now. It’s a different form of competition. But Bobby definitely is going to add to the interest level in our division.

The Lowrie market

In Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox could have a valuable chip in the trade market.

With Marco Scutaro set to play shortstop in 2012 and Jose Iglesias the shortstop of the future, the 27-year-old Lowrie is surplus.

Cherington gave a good sales pitch when asked about the oft-injured infielder.

“He’s always been a guy that we felt can be an everyday player and been very close to being an everyday player at different points in his career,’’ the GM said. “He won the job at one point and got hurt. He started playing a lot early this year when he was hot and got banged up again. When that opportunity will come again to grab onto an everyday job, I don’t know. But we still feel he has that potential.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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