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Westmoreland vows that he’ll play again

Darnell McDonald (right) got hold of one for a two-run homer in the sixth inning. Darnell McDonald (right) got hold of one for a two-run homer in the sixth inning. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 24, 2010

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DENVER — A little more than three months after Ryan Westmoreland learned of the cavernous malformation in his brain, the Red Sox top prospect yesterday spoke publicly about his progress, about the knowns and unknowns of his recovery from surgery, and his potential return to baseball.

There are no definites in his career at the moment. For now, the 20-year-old outfielder is doing his best to have a normal summer in between sessions of physical, occupational, and speech therapy four days a week. He’s trying to keep a positive attitude as he watches fellow prospects play the game he loves.

“The mind-set is I’m going to get back on the field and play again,’’ Westmoreland said on a conference call. “And that’s the ultimate goal.

“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.

“I feel a lot better. 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.’’

But there is no timetable in Westmoreland’s recovery.

“From the doctors’ 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’m just really focused on the next day ahead and just trying to get better every day.’’

That’s a far cry from the moment of the initial diagnosis, when he and his family learned the results of the MRI. Westmoreland said he didn’t even fully understand what was going on at first. He knew it was serious, but he didn’t know what it meant for him.

“There was certainly some very tough days and nights and tough weeks, but once the surgery happened . . . and even the second day in ICU, he actually got up and walked down the hall,’’ said his father, Ron Westmoreland, who added that Ryan has been able to do some running and throwing lately.

“From that day forward, we got to a point where it just became an everyday 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.’’

Returning from such a surgery is nearly unprecedented, with the Providence Journal reporting that the closest comparison would be Alberto Contador, who won two Tours de France after similar surgery.

“I keep hearing from pretty much every doctor that the progress is what they’ve termed remarkable,’’ Ryan Westmoreland said. “I feel like I’m doing things that are above the limits of what the doctors thought. The therapists themselves are setting goals for me and I’m making those goals earlier than they expected.’’

Not that it has been easy.

“I do ask myself, ‘Why me?’ ’’ Westmoreland said. “But there’s obviously a reason out there. And I was born with this condition. So you can ask yourself, ‘Why me?,’ but at the same time, it happened. You can’t do anything about it. It’s time to move on.’’

Beckett progessing
After more than a month of waiting and wondering, Josh Beckett is finally beginning to see the culmination of his work with the trainers. The righthander threw a 55-pitch bullpen session yesterday, and was clearly happy with both the results and the timeline that has been sketched out for him.

If everything continues to progress as scheduled, Beckett could return by the middle of July, though there is quite a bit that has to happen between now and then.

Beckett will throw a simulated game Saturday in San Francisco, then will face hitters at Fenway Park Thursday.

After that, he is expected to be put on a five-day rotation, beginning his rehab starts in the minors.

Manager Terry Francona estimated that Beckett could need three to four starts before he would be ready to rejoin the club, putting him at July 16 or July 21.

“Even over the past week, I’ve just been better, just mood and everything,’’ Beckett said. “It’s tough when you’ve got no light at the end of the tunnel. Every day you come in, what am I getting ready for?

“That’s where it gets tough. You come in, you’re the first guy here, get your stuff out of the way so you’re not in the way of the other players. It’s just you sit around. It’s a lot of down time.’’

His side session yesterday marked the first time Beckett had thrown all of his pitches since May 18, his last start before being put on the DL.

“My curveball was iffy,’’ Beckett said. “I threw some good changeups today. Things are getting back to normal. Arm speed’s back to normal.

“Everything was just so scripted before. Now it’s the natural thing to just go out and play catch, get on a mound, do what you’ve got to do. It’s not like, ‘Oh, watching this pitch or this pitch.’ ’’

The Sox will base their decisions on how many rehab starts Beckett needs.

“Whatever he needs,’’ Francona said. “We’re not going to shortcut it.

“Some of that’s depending on how he’s doing. We also don’t want him to pitch for the PawSox all year if he can help us. That’s not the idea.

“We want him when he pitches for us to be on the mound and feel like he can go compete and not have to think about stuff. When he does, he’s not the same pitcher.’’

And that’s who they want back, the new, improved, and healthy Beckett.

“Who knows where we’d be if everybody stayed healthy,’’ Beckett said. “We’ve definitely had our share of knickknack stuff and even some big things, broken ribs. We’ve got to lead all of baseball in broken ribs for the year. There’s no way anybody’s ever going to catch us. That might be some sort of record or something.’’

Drew in limbo
It appears unlikely that J.D. Drew (hamstring) will be in tonight’s lineup, given the workout the outfielder had yesterday. That makes things more difficult for the Sox, who need to make a roster move today so Daisuke Matsuzaka can start tonight.

“He went out and ran,’’ Francona said. “I think he was a little bit disappointed. I think he thought that he was going to get to a certain point, kind of hit a level, and get to another one and he wasn’t able to do that. He is getting better, actually improving significantly, but I think he still was a little disappointed.’’

Before last night’s game, Francona said that, without major improvement, Drew would not play tonight.

Asked if Drew’s situation would complicate the roster move, Francona said, “We’re aware of it. We obviously need to make a move for Daisuke. As long as [Drew] is coming, we’re actually OK, and I know he is. He’s a really good player, and when you’re losing one of your guys anyway because David [Ortiz] or [Kevin Youkilis] or somebody’s not playing, having that lefthanded bat hurts not having him in there.’’

Cameron rests
Darnell McDonald played center field last night, with Mike Cameron not starting. The Sox want to keep Cameron fresh for starts tonight against the Rockies and tomorrow against the Giants. The team still hasn’t pushed the center fielder too far, generally keeping him away from three straight starts to protect his health. Cameron had his first RBI since May 30 Tuesday, but doesn’t feel quite right at the plate . . . Victor Martinez was clocked on a play at the plate in the fourth inning. Martinez’s face slammed into Clint Barmes’s leg, with the catcher spun around from the impact. Martinez remained in the game after the trainers checked on him, eventually moving to first base in a double-switch late in the game. “I think he nicked him,’’ Francona said. “For a split second, he kind of knocked him. He gathered himself real quick. When I got out there, he looked a little dazed, but he gathered himself real quick. I think he’s OK.’’ . . . John Lackey had a season-high seven strikeouts in his 6 2/3 innings. His single and double were his second and third career hits. “Don’t count on that,’’ Lackey said. “It was pretty fortunate. [Ubaldo Jimenez’s] a special pitcher.’’ Beckett was the last Sox pitcher with two hits in a game May 20, 2006 in Philadelphia . . . Daniel Nava had two doubles, giving him eight extra base hits in 10 games to begin his career. Since 1952, the only other Sox player with eight extra-base hits in 10 games was Sam Horn in 1987. ‘I knew that [Jimenez] had a good fastball that was moving away,’’ Nava said. “I was just trying to go with what he threw me. I wasn’t trying to pull anything or purposely go to left field. I was just trying to take what he gave me.’’ Nava isn’t getting too excited about his continued success. “It’s baseball. You can have one game and you look like you’re doing pretty good, and the next game . . . ’’ Nava said with a shrug. “Just one of those things. I was fortunate to get some pitches to hit, get some good swings on. I can take a little confidence from it, but I’m not blowing it out of proportion.’’ . . . The Sox had a Players Association meeting yesterday afternoon, and elected Daniel Bard as player representative. Clay Buchholz will be the assistant. They replace Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@amaliebenjamin

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