'We love him': La Russa away from club indefinitely amid medical tests

Bench coach Miguel Cairo to serve as acting White Sox manager in his absence

August 31st, 2022

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa was not physically present at Guaranteed Rate Field Wednesday night and won’t be there for an indefinite amount of time after a morning medical evaluation led to additional testing with his personal physician scheduled in Arizona.

But his influence still will be felt through bench coach Miguel Cairo, who will serve as acting White Sox manager in La Russa’s absence, as well as through the players he’s managed over parts of the past two seasons.

"I’ve loved playing for him. He’s taught me a lot. He’s been a great mentor for me, especially as a young player," White Sox outfielder Gavin Sheets said. "He’s kind of brought me under his wing. Showed me the ropes and learned from him the whole way. He’s been an incredible mentor, and I want to see him back as soon as possible."

"He's going to be checking. Already, I asked him how I did yesterday, and he said, ‘You did fine,’" Cairo said. "So, he's going to be fine. He's going to be watching, for sure. I'm going to be asking questions."

La Russa’s absence was a sudden and surprising one, considering he did the usual pregame media session Tuesday and then was on the field during batting practice. La Russa, who turns 78 on Oct. 4, spent part of that time talking with White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, a common occurrence for the two leaders within the organization.

Somewhere around one hour before first pitch of a 9-7 loss to the Royals, the White Sox issued a release addressing La Russa not managing Tuesday until getting further tests at the direction of his doctors. Many of the players mentioned Wednesday the news got to them via social media or through chatter within the clubhouse.

Cairo held a team meeting following the team’s fifth straight loss and sixth straight loss at home, with the crux of the talk centered upon keeping the same goals and working just as hard. Cairo indicated a plan to talk to the players again when more information was known concerning La Russa.

"I found out on Twitter. I saw that the White Sox posted something, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. This is crazy.’ And then we had to just go play," outfielder Andrew Vaughn said. "We were trying to talk about it, trying to figure out what was going on. They mentioned a few things, maybe his heart, something like that. Just health. Pretty scary."

"To me, personally, I didn't talk to him about his health, but Tony was Tony," setup man Kendall Graveman added. "Tony showed up every day and went to work, even at his age, and he worked hard, he worked really hard. For me, seeing that as a player, it meant a lot to me that he would show up every day and put in his best effort and really get after it every day."

This season has been very disappointing for the White Sox and La Russa, in his second managerial stint in Chicago after 10 years away from the dugout. The White Sox captured the American League Central title in 2021, only to be dispatched by Houston in an AL Division Series. Their core crop of talent and expectations had Chicago considered by many a World Series favorite entering '22.

Entering the last day of August, the White Sox were three games under .500 and six games behind division-leading Cleveland in the AL Central. There has been a plethora of injuries, but much of the blame still has been heaped upon La Russa by the fan base with "Fire Tony” chants even being heard at some games -- something the manager has addressed.

As for when La Russa may return this season, that is entirely up to the opinions of doctors and the results of tests scheduled for the coming days.

"He cares way too much. He cares so much about the game," Cairo said. "He cares about the clubhouse, the players. We love him, I love him. I played for him, I work with him, and he’s got so much knowledge about the game."

"It really puts baseball in perspective," Graveman said. "I understand that we want to compete and win and prepare and do the best that we can, and that's what we get paid to do. But at the end of the day, there's stuff that I feel is vital and way more important than playing the game of baseball. He needs to go be with his family and take care of himself in the moment."