Concern evident for Sox’ Westmoreland

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 15, 2010

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox players friendly with stricken prospect Ryan Westmoreland said the 19-year-old outfielder learned of his rare brain condition after experiencing a series of headaches and other symptoms while working out at the minor league camp last month.

The team announced Saturday night that Westmoreland has a “cavernous malformation’’ of weak blood vessels in his brain and would have surgery tomorrow in Phoenix.

ESPN reported that the malformation is located in Westmoreland’s brain stem, which could complicate the procedure and leave severe neurological damage.

The serious medical implications transcend concerns about Westmoreland’s playing career.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona declined comment on the matter, not even to say what he thought of the player personally, at the request of Westmoreland’s family.

“I’m going to be very respectful of what they’re going through,’’ he said. “I would hope that everybody else would be, too.’’

Westmoreland, a native of Portsmouth, R.I., was a three-sport star in high school before the Red Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 amateur draft. A $2 million signing bonus convinced him to give up a scholarship to Vanderbilt.

Lefthander Jon Lester, who battled cancer in 2006, told the Associated Press that Westmoreland was fortunate to be associated with the Red Sox.

“He’s definitely in a good organization as far as doctors and people that’ll take care of him, said Lester, who overcame anaplastic large cell lymphoma. “As far as that goes, we got a lot of good resources here.’’

Westmoreland left the team March 4 and was diagnosed the next day at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is now in Arizona and will be operated on by Dr. Robert Spetzler of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

A second off-field medical issue was revealed yesterday. After being questioned by the Globe, Francona admitted that infielder Jed Lowrie has been away from the team for three days undergoing a series of tests.

“He just wasn’t feeling real good,’’ Francona said. “So we had him checked out by the doctor.

“We just want to run him through some tests before we get him back on the field. We’ve been doing that the last couple of days. He’ll get some more tests [today].’’

Francona said the tests were precautionary and that the process was delayed by the weekend.

Lowrie, 25, described his condition as akin to being hit by a truck.

“He just feels run down and he said he’s had this feeling during the winter at times. So we just want to get him kind of back on his feet and eliminate anything it could ever be. The safest way to go about that is run a bunch of tests,’’ Francona said.

“They did a bunch of stuff the other day, a stress test and things like that. They’ll do some things tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get him back on the field as soon he gets all the results back.’’

The tests were administered in Florida. The stress test was done after trainers noticed Lowrie had an accelerated heartbeat.

“We’re probably being overly cautious, but I’m not sure you can be,’’ Francona said.

Asked whether he was worried, the manager paused. “When I say worried, I would think we think he’s fine. He’s been fatigued a little bit and we just want to rule out stuff,’’ he said.

Lowrie has had only 10 plate appearances this spring. After spending much of 2009 on the disabled list with a left wrist injury that required surgery in April, his goal this spring was to prove he could stay on the field and rejuvenate what appeared to be a promising career.

Until the test results are back, it is uncertain how long Lowie will be out of camp.

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

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