By Rick Hummel Louis Post-Dispatch
Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who went to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to be treated for a case of shingles that sidelined him for a week during the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series championship season, has left the Chicago White Sox to go back to the same clinic to be treated for an unspecified heart ailment, according to a USA Today report.
The report was corroborated by a second source. The 77-year-old La Russa missed the first game of the White Sox’s series in Chicago with Kansas City and, before the second game started, traveled to Arizona on Wednesday night to undergo tests on Thursday, USA Today said, citing a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“But I think he’s going to be OK,” said one person familiar with the situation. “Tony says he feels great.”
And Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who played 11 seasons for La Russa in St. Louis, told Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold in Cincinnati that he had spoken to La Russa Wednesday and that his former manager appeared in good spirits.
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La Russa, under fire in Chicago during his second season as manager as his team has drifted under .500, will be out indefinitely, according to the White Sox. According to the USA Today report, La Russa underwent further tests Wednesday in Chicago and it was advised that he see heart specialists in Arizona. La Russa, the major leagues’ oldest manager, has one more year remaining on his three-year contract.
Bench coach Miguel Cairo, who played for La Russa with the Cardinals, managed Tuesday’s game and was slated to do so again Wednesday night.
“It’s unbelievably tough,” outfielder Andrew Vaughn told Chicago reporters. “We really don’t have much information on what’s going on.”
La Russa’s absence on Tuesday was announced about one hour before the first pitch. The 2014 Hall of Famer showed no signs of health issues during his pregame session with reporters and while talking to general manager Rick Hahn and former Oakland Athletics pitching star Dave Stewart before the game.
La Russa was a controversial hire when he was given the job by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf last year, over the reported objections of Hahn. The White Sox won their division last year but lost in the first round of the playoffs to eventual World Series runner-up Houston. But this season, the injury-riddled White Sox have been among baseball’s biggest disappointments, lagging behind both Cleveland and Minnesota in the American League Central Division race.
La Russa is second to Connie Mack all-time among major-league managers with 2,884 victories. He won World Series titles with Oakland (1989) and the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. La Russa also took two other Oakland teams to the World Series in 1988 and 1990 and one Cardinals team in 2004.
He managed the White Sox previously from 1979-86, winning a division title in 1983.
In his 16 seasons with the Cardinals, La Russa’s teams won division titles in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009 and were wild-card qualifiers in 2001 and in 2011 when they won the World Series.
Two days after the 2011 season ended, La Russa retired after 16 seasons with the Cardinals. He went to work for the commissioner’s office and then took over the front office operations of the Arizona Diamondbacks before moving on to front-office advisory jobs with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels before returning to on-field with the White Sox.