Sox turn thoughts to La Russa after loss to KC

August 31st, 2022

CHICAGO -- Baseball results didn’t seem to matter quite as much Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Yes, they played the opener between the White Sox and Royals, with Kansas City claiming a 9-7 victory. But the game went on without Tony La Russa, the 77-year-old White Sox manager, who missed the contest at the direction of his doctors.

La Russa is scheduled to undergo medical testing Wednesday in Chicago. The club announced his absence Tuesday one hour before the scheduled 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch.

“You just hope he's going to be all right,” said Lucas Giolito, the White Sox starting pitcher, who took the loss. “I don't know any details."

“Yeah, it was weird. We didn’t have much of a heads up,” said White Sox right fielder Gavin Sheets, who homered twice and drove in five during a sixth straight loss at home for the White Sox. “Obviously praying for him, praying for a full recovery. At the same time, we go out and do our job and prepare to play a game.”

Sheets found out through social media and then when the news started to filter throughout the clubhouse. Giolito didn’t know much about it until he saw the report on the center field scoreboard upon going to warm up.

Bench coach Miguel Cairo took over in La Russa’s absence. He was prepared for Tuesday’s action, just as he’ll be prepared Wednesday if called upon to manage.

“I always manage in the game when I’m not in the game,” Cairo said. “I knew the pitchers that we had and I knew the matchups. I always prepare myself before the game starts.

“We found out today like an hour before the game that I was going to manage. We’re going to find out tomorrow what is going on, and, hopefully, he’s going to be fine and he’s back tomorrow to do his duties. We are going to keep him in our thoughts.”

After a decade out of uniform, La Russa returned to the dugout prior to the 2021 season and guided the South Siders to the AL Central title before they were dispatched in four games by the Astros during an American League Division Series. La Russa held a six-minute pregame interview session with the media Tuesday, as he does on a daily basis, before the announcement of his absence. 

He took time during the session to talk about Dave Stewart, a special guest Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, and Stewart’s almost-spotless postseason record. La Russa was on the field during batting practice, talking at times to general manager Rick Hahn. The White Sox anticipate providing an update on La Russa’s status on Wednesday, although it’s fairly certain La Russa would rather be back in the dugout.

“Believe me, he would love to be there. He wants to be there,” Cairo said. “But he needs to rest, and they’re going to find out tomorrow what is going on.”

The setback Tuesday dropped the White Sox to 2-10 in their last 12 games. Kansas City grabbed a 5-0 lead by the fifth, watched the White Sox cut it to one in the bottom of the frame on Sheets’ three-run blast but scored in seven straight innings to maintain control.

Cleveland (68-59) and Minnesota (67-61) won their games, meaning the White Sox (63-66) are six back of the Guardians and 4 1/2 behind the Twins in the division standings. They have lost five straight overall, beginning with a brutal walk-off defeat Thursday in Baltimore. With 33 games remaining, they are running out of time.

“This is a stretch where we need to be playing well, so it's frustrating to not be,” said Giolito, who allowed three home runs and five runs in 5 1/3 innings. “I wanted to come in tonight and give a good performance, keep it close. We had a chance to win, and it didn't work out. We've got to just rally and come back tomorrow and get a win and go from there."

Any sort of win would help the cause at this point.

“Unless you win, it’s not that much fun,” Sheets said. “That’s where the fun, that’s where the energy, that’s where everything comes from -- winning. We know what we have to do. We know it better than anybody. Right now, we need to get it going.”