Red Sox mum on prospect's condition

Updated: March 15, 2010, 7:53 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona would not discuss Ryan Westmoreland and his medical issue in any context Sunday, even declining to say whether he had reached out to the 19-year-old outfielder who is facing brain surgery Tuesday.

"I've been up to date for a while," Francona said. "I'm going to stick to their wishes. What they said was pretty straightforward, so we need to be very respectful of that."

Francona was referring to the family's request for privacy, as communicated in a statement released by the team Saturday night in which it was announced that Westmoreland, a native of Portsmouth, R.I., required surgery for a cavernous malformation in the brain. Sources have told ESPNBoston.com that the malformation of abnormal tiny blood vessels is located on Westmoreland's brain stem, making for a significant risk of neurological damage and a potentially life-threatening condition.

When asked if he'd contacted Westmoreland, Francona said, "I'm going to stay with what was asked. I'm going to be very respectful of what they're going through. I would hope everybody else would too. If you don't, that's up to you."

The Red Sox's statement did not indicate how the team first became aware of Westmoreland's condition, saying only that he'd left camp on March 4 and was diagnosed the next day at Massachusetts General Hospital. Sources have told ESPNBoston.com that Westmoreland began experiencing headaches and other neurological symptoms, which alerted the team to the need for medical attention.

Other Sox officials contacted Sunday were equally reluctant to comment. The surgery is scheduled to be performed Tuesday in Phoenix by Robert Spetzler of the Barrow Neurological Institute, who is one of the most renowned neurosurgeons in the field.

"He's a great kid, man, it's so sad hearing what happened with him," said Red Sox catcher Luis Exposito, who met Westmoreland in spring training last year and became friendly with him at the team's rookie development program this past January.

"My prayers go out to him and his family that it all works out. I hope he gets his career back, but his health is most important. He has a bright, bright future."

"He's definitely in a good organization as far as doctors and people that'll take care of him," said Sox pitcher Jon Lester. "As far as that goes, we've got a lot of good resources here."

Lester was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in August 2006 during his first major league season. The pitcher has been cancer-free since his treatment that year.

Lester said the Red Sox did a good job of protecting his privacy during his treatment, and he expects Westmoreland will benefit from the same approach.

"I was very happy with the way it was handled as far as the media and the Red Sox," Lester said. "I think I probably would have dealt with [my treatments] the same, [but] it's just one less thing you have to deal with."

Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew couldn't recall if he had met Westmoreland, who has not attended big league camp, but was reminded of a friend in Georgia who had a similar condition and the trials his friend faced.

"Man, I hope it works out for him," he said. "It's a tough deal. Just like that, things change. I know he and his family are really stressed out right now. Hopefully, prayerfully, everything will go well. Things like that change people's lives, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually, and hopefully in his case it will draw his family even closer."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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