Right fielder Gavin Sheets had a conversation with manager Tony La Russa during batting practice Tuesday, a few hours before the Chicago White Sox played the Kansas City Royals.
Less than an hour before first pitch, the Sox announced that La Russa would misses the game at the direction of his doctors.
“I was with him all day,” Sheets said Wednesday. “I was a little blindsided by it. He seemed good all day.”
The Sox announced Wednesday that La Russa is out indefinitely and scheduled to undergo further testing with doctors in Arizona.
“As a team and as his player,” reliever Kendall Graveman said, “I want to wish him nothing but the best in health and recovery and whatever that entails in his immediate future and moving forward. That’s obviously where our hearts and minds are. . Hopefully we get the best doctors around him to see what’s going on.”
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported La Russa, 77, recently had tests with a cardiologist, and the recommendation was to miss Tuesday’s game. Nightengale reported that after more tests on Wednesday, La Russa was advised to see heart specialists.
“I talked to him (Wednesday), he was fine,” Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo said. “But his doctor is in Arizona. They have all the information about his treatment, and we’ll know later in the week what’s going on.”
Cairo, which managed Tuesday’s 9-7 loss, will continue to fill.
“Health and family,” Graveman said. “You guys see us a lot in uniform and see us on the field doing our job and preparing every day to be the best baseball players we can, and Tony prepared to be the best manager he can. But at the end of it all this, outside of traveling (between) different cities and dressing up every day and going to battle with each other, we have families, we have people who are dear to us and have been through all of this together. It really puts baseball in perspective.
“I understand that we want to compete and win and prepare and do the best we can, and that’s what we get paid for. But there are things that I think are essential and much more important than playing baseball. He needs to go be with his family and take care of himself at the moment.”
Some of the players, such as outfielder/first baseman Andrew Vaughn, learned the news Tuesday via social media.
“I saw the White Sox posted something,” Vaughn said, “and I was like, ‘Oh, my god. This is crazy.’ And then we just had to go play.
“We’ve been trying to talk about it, trying to figure out what’s going on. They mentioned a few things, maybe his heart. Only health. Pretty scary.”
La Russa is in the second season of his second stint with the Sox. Last season they won their first division title since 2008, but this year has been filled with injuries and inconsistency. The Sox entered Wednesday’s game at Guaranteed Rate Field in third place in the American League Central, three games under .500.
La Russa is second all-time among major league managers with 2,884 wins. The 2014 Hall of Fame inductee won World Series titles with the Oakland Athletics (1989) and St. Louis Cardinals (2006, 2011).
“You look at his record and it stands for itself,” Graveman said. “He probably forgot more about baseball than I will ever know. That’s something I looked up to, seeing him show up every day and go to work and work extremely hard. And his will and (desire) to win, he lived and died for victory and loss. He still cares. I’m sure he’s still watching and following along.
“When we lost, it really hurt him, and when we won, he was really excited for us. And I think he was more excited not for his own sake but for the team as a whole when we won. And he was disappointed. and always thinking about what he could have done better to make us win when we lost. So I respect him for that.”
La Russa managed the Sox from 1979-86 and is back for 2021 with hopes of taking a talented young team to the next level after the Sox were eliminated in the wild card round in 2020.
The Socks made the finals last season but were eliminated in the AL Division Series by the Houston Astros in four games.
Projected to be one of the top teams in baseball this season, the Sox instead found themselves six games behind the division-leading Cleveland Guardians on the final day of August.
“First and foremost pray for (La Rusa),” Sheets said. “You just pray for him, pray for a speedy recovery. We don’t know the full details of what’s going on, but most importantly we want to get some wins … so when he comes back, whenever that is, hopefully we’ll be in a better place for the playoffs.
“I loved playing for him. He taught me a lot. He was a great mentor for me, especially as a young player. From the first day I came up, he kind of took me under his wing, showed me the ropes and learned from him all the way. I want to see him again as soon as possible.”