Seven years after his surgery, remembering what Ryan Westmoreland might have been
|03.16.17 at 9:27 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ryan Westmoreland’s manager with the Lowell Spinners, Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina, couldn’t fathom it when reminded.
“I can’t believe it’s been seven years,” DiSarcina said Thursday afternoon.
But it has been.
On March 16, 2010, Westmoreland underwent surgery on a cavernous malformation of his brain stem, for all intent and purposes ending the career of a player many believed might be the next great New England superstar.
The anniversary served as an opportunity to remember how good Westmoreland, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft, was, and how good he might have ended up being.
“That was the question I asked a lot of people,” said Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant, who had tracked Westmoreland through his high school career at Portsmouth (RI) High. “[Former Red Sox general manager] Theo [Epstein] would be the first to ask because Theo just raved nothing but superlatives about him. From what I had heard, 30-30. That kind of guy. An impact, everyday guy for a long time.”
What intrigued many about the 6-foot-2, 212-pound outfielder was how fast he came on after graduating high school. First came the draft, but then Westmoreland really started getting people talking in the months leading up to his signing in August, 2008.
“I’ve never seen anybody come on more than over the course of the summer,” Fagnant remembered. “We saw a lot of him that summer because it wasn’t a slam dunk we were going to sign him. It was the kind of thing where we had to monitor him. I saw him probably about 15 times between the draft and the time we saw him. What stood out was how much better he got between the day we drafted him and when we signed him in August. And obviously when we signed him, he was worth every penny. We took a flier on him in the fifth round, but what we got was a slam dunk first-rounder.”
It was Westmoreland’s first full professional season, while with the short-season Single A Spinners, that he allowed for the biggest of expectations.
In 60 games for DiSarcina’s Lowell team, the lefty batter hit .296 with seven home runs and an .885 OPS while going 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts.
“It’s difficult to project, especially a kid coming out of high school like that, as far as how far he would go because there are so many other factors out of his control. Whether he gets injured, gets traded or peaks too soon. So many things can change his path. But the one thing that was certain was his physical ability,” DiSarcina said. “Having seen him for that short season in Lowell, things that stuck out in my mind was coaching third base and when he would score from second on a base hit you could hear him running by you. He was that fast. Very similar to Mike Trout. He rips ground. You could hear him go by you.
“In the batter’s box, he may have been a high school kid, but he conducted himself as a college kid. Just very professional at-bats, great eye. Things high school kids normally wouldn’t have. Didn’t swing at many breaking balls in the dirt with two strikes. He got in good counts a lot of the time. He worked hard on his defensive side of things as far as his throwing ability with his arm.”
All of it was enough to dream what might have been for the now 26-year-old trainer.
“His physical ability and his body, the work that he did there that year, for me, I was very excited for him,” DiSarcina said. “It wasn’t something where this kid needed four or five years in the minor leagues. It doesn’t matter what level, but it was just because the way he performed and dominated that level, I could see him ending that next year ending in Double A. And once you’re in Double A you’re a phone call away.”
7 years ago today I had brain surgery.
— Ryan Westmoreland (@RWesty25) March 16, 2017
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