White Sox manager Tony La Russa has been on a health-related leave of absence since August 30, but he met with his team in person in Oakland this weekend. La Russa was given the go-ahead by doctors to make the trip from his home in Arizona, as La Russa wanted to be in attendance when Dave Stewart had his number retired by the Athletics today.
Meeting with reporters (including Janie McCauley of The Associated Press and Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times) today, the 77-year-old La Russa said it was still “uncertain” about whether or not he would be able to return to the White Sox dugout.
“I don’t plan to be in uniform until [doctors] say it’s time to be in uniform,” La Russa said. “I don’t know if they want me at the park or not. The most important thing for me is you don’t want to be a distraction. I don’t want to be a distraction. That’s why it’s best to let it run its course, and in the meantime [the team is] concentrating on the game they’re playing.”
The exact nature of La Russa’s health problem wasn’t known, but he told McCauley that he had a pacemaker inserted. The manager told the media that he also had a heart issue during Spring Training, and on August 30, doctors “had some information they needed to address” about the problem that required La Russa to immediately step away from the White Sox. “They fixed it, now it’s a question of regaining strength….I’ve had my issue fixed, I’m mending,” La Russa noted.
La Russa hasn’t entirely stepped away, as he said he still makes multiple calls per day to bench coach and acting manager Miguel Cairo. The Sox have posted a 9-3 record in La Russa’s absence, a surge has kept Chicago in the hunt for the AL Central title and on the outskirts of the wild card race. Apart from three games against the Padres and four games against the division-leading Guardians, the White Sox have one of the easier remaining schedules of any team in baseball, making them a team to watch down the stretch.