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Ben Cherington on Ryan Westmoreland: ‘He got dealt a bad hand’

03.06.13 at 6:14 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — After the news that Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland had decided to retire at the age of 22, Sox general manager Ben Cherington reflected on the circumstances that led to the former outfielder’s decision.

“Ryan is a remarkable young man,” Cherington said. “He was an incredibly talented baseball player, a special  talent as a baseball player. We got to know him more as a person after the first incident a few years back and we’€™ve come to learn that he’€™s even a more special person. Today’€™s decision by him was something that we knew was coming and we had been talking about it. we just couldn’€™t be more impressed by a human being than we are by Ryan in the way he’€™s handled this, the grace he’€™s shown and he’€™s inspired a lot of people.”

Westmoreland, who had surgery in March 2010 to remove a cavernous malformation from his brain stem, was initially making progress in attempting a comeback, Cherington said. But after having to have another surgery last July, a return to baseball became increasingly unlikely.

Westmoreland had been at the Red Sox’ spring training facility in recent weeks, using a cane to get around.

“I think after the first incident, I think all of our focus was first really on making sure he was OK. then he made such incredible progress,” Cherington explained. “He was really pushing the boundaries of what was possible in rehab. I think his doctors have said that he was sort of in the 99.9th percentile in terms of what he was able to accomplish. And it got to the point where he was doing things on the field and you start talking more about baseball. Obviously that was what he was focused on. He had a setback last summer and it was just too much to recover from. So I would say, for a little while now, we’€™ve started to shift focus towards let’€™s start talking about what makes sense moving forward and start thinking about something off the field and still, a very hard thing for him, even though he had probably been thinking about it for a while. I know it’€™s a hard thing to finally come to that conclusion that he needed to do something else.”

Cherington was first introduced to Westmoreland when the then-assistant general manager scouted the (Portsmouth) Rhode Island high school star prior to the 2008 draft. The outfielder was eventually taken by the Red Sox in the fifth-round, earning a $2 million signing bonus.

In Westmoreland’s lone professional season, he hit .296 with an .885 OPS, to go along with seven home runs, 35 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 60 games for Single-A Lowell.

“Just an elite talent,” Cherington said. “I got to see him first in high school, in Portsmouth, and then that summer when he was playing. he got better every time you saw him. There was truly not much he couldn’€™t do on the field. And he was a really smart kid, just a good family, from New England, the whole thing. We were really excited to sign him and he showed a lot early in his time with the red sox. Like I said, and I told this to ryan the other day, for some reason, some people don’€™t get dealt the same hand. Some of those hands aren’€™t fair. He got dealt a bad hand. But there is a path for him he’€™s going to find and there’€™s going to be a lot of happiness in his future and I can’€™t imagine anyone else handling this the way he handled it.”

Cherington said that while he could see Westmoreland having some sort of future in baseball, he encouraged him to take a step back before making the decision to dive into such an endeavor.

It is believed Westmoreland will attend college at some point, with the Red Sox having already committed to paying his tuition per the two parties’ original deal. Westmoreland had originally committed to play at Vanderbuilt before agreeing to his contract with the Sox.

“Yeah, I think it’€™s something I hope he does down the road if it’€™s something he wants to do,” said Cherington when asked about the chance Westmoreland might dive into another part of baseball besides playing. “I think, most importantly, I think the first step for him is to maybe take a step away in the short term and really figure out the path that makes snese for him and we’€™ll support him in doing that. I know he wants to go to college ‘€“ that’€™s important, no matter where his path leads. I know that’€™s important and I know it’€™s important to him. But if baseball is something he wants to be a part of his future down the road, he still has an intellectual capability to help a team and for right now, I just think he needs to spend a little time away finding himself and I know that’€™s what he’€™s committed to.”

To read Westmoreland’s statement regarding his retirement, click here.

For Alex Speier’s column on Westmoreland’s comeback, click here.

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