DALLAS -- Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland will face live pitching in games in the Dominican Instructional League later this week. It will be the first time that Westmoreland, 21, has played in a game since undergoing surgery to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain stem on March 16, 2010.
"He got full medical clearance yesterday," said agent Lou Nero of Octagon. "It's going to be an interesting couple of days."
Westmoreland -- who emerged as a top Red Sox prospect after being taken in the 2008 draft and hitting .296 with a .401 OBP, .484 slugging mark and .885 OPS with seven homers for the Lowell Spinners in 2009 -- will serve as a designated hitter while in the Dominican. While the plan is subject to change, right now, the Sox expect that he will have one at-bat in a game on Thursday and two on Friday.
The undertaking represents a milestone in the outfielder's recovery, and signals that his balance, vision and swing have improved to the point where both Westmoreland and the team feel comfortable with this next step. He has faced live batting practice pitching in recent months, but this will be the first instance in which he will do so under game circumstances, running out of the box.
Though this represents a significant development in Westmoreland's rehab, and serves as a reminder of the goal that is driving his lengthy rehab in Fort Myers, it is not necessarily an indication that the outfielder will be ready to resume a normal playing schedule by next spring training. As significant as his progess has been, there remains necessary improvement in front of him.
Nonetheless, it is evidence that Westmoreland's steady progress allows him to continue to meet goals that seemed almost unfathomable at the time of a surgery that was characterized as life-threatening when it was done.
"Ryan's continued to make strides. He faced several pitchers in live B.P. settings towards the end of the season and actually handled himself very well," said Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett. "It was everybody's decision that he was ready for a challenge. I think it's an important step for him to kind of get that under his belt. ... It's an important step for him mentally. He's been going so hard for such a long time. This will be an important confidence boost for him. He's made enough strides to be able to handle it."
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