March 10, 2013

On Baseball: A week of those who impress, and those who don't

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Thoughts from the past week in baseball:

RYAN WESTMORELAND never made it to Portland as a baseball player but did visit Hadlock Field to say hello to friends on the team.

Sea Dogs fans missed out. Westmoreland is said to have been a wonderful baseball talent, so much so that the Boston Red Sox gave him a $2 million signing bonus after drafting him out of high school in Rhode Island in 2008. Baseball America named him the team's top prospect before the 2010 season.

Then came a feeling of numbness in spring training that led to a diagnosis of a dangerous lump of blood vessels on his brain stem.

After a surgery that could have taken his life or left him paralyzed, Westmoreland continued to work back to a seemingly impossible goal of playing pro baseball again. Amazingly, he took part in an instructional league game in the Dominican Republic in December 2011.

Westmoreland struck out, grounded out twice and was hit in the back with a fastball.

"It never felt so good to be hit by a pitch," Westmoreland told the Providence Journal back then.

But health complications returned and Westmoreland underwent a second brain surgery last July. He again tried to come back, but this past week announced he was retiring at the age of 22.

Westmoreland plans to go to college. One dream shattered, Westmoreland is moving on.

Having briefly met Westmoreland in Portland (he watched a game from the Hadlock press box) and having talked to others who knew him better, two words quickly come to mind:

Determination. Inspiration.

DRAKE BRITTON, on the other hand, is a player who isn't inspiring at the moment.

Britton, a left-hander who pitched for the Sea Dogs last year and may return, was arrested in Florida last weekend for driving under the influence. He reportedly drove erratically at 111 mph in a 45 mph zone, before going off the road.

No one was injured. Has anyone told Britton how incredibly lucky he is?

The Red Sox issued a brief statement that they are taking the matter seriously but won't comment further.

But they can't stay completely silent. With Britton's arrest being so public, the Red Sox should make their actions public -- how will Britton be disciplined and what measures are being taken to guarantee he won't do this again?

CARL CRAWFORD isn't with the Red Sox any more but is still making news, complaining about his time in Boston. Specifically, he chastised the media.

"They love it when you're miserable," Crawford told cbssports.com. "That media was the worst thing I've ever experienced in my life."

Not sure where Crawford is coming from. Rarely saw reporters hoping a player was miserable. If he thinks a question about his struggles -- and Crawford did struggle -- is spiteful, then he's missing the point.

Now if Crawford was listening to talk radio well, that's just asking for trouble.

STEPHEN FIFE is one of Crawford's teammates in the Dodgers' spring-training camp.

Fife, a Sea Dogs pitcher until his trade to the Dodgers in July 2011, faces an uphill fight for a rotation spot.

Los Angeles has stacked its rotation, including Josh Beckett (acquired last year) and the off-season signings of Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Greinke was supposed to start Wednesday against Team Mexico but came down with the flu. Fife filled in and pitched four innings (three hits, one run).

(Continued on page 2)

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