By Rick Hummel St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who visited 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 , left the Chicago White Sox to return to the same clinic to be treated for an unspecified heart condition, according to a USA Today report.
The report was corroborated by a second source. La Russa, 77, missed Game 1 of the White Sox series in Chicago with Kansas City and, before Game 2 began, traveled to Arizona on Wednesday night for testing Thursday, USA Today said, citing a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“But I think he’ll be fine,” said a person familiar with the situation. “Tony says he feels good.”
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 spoke to La Russa on Wednesday and that his former manager was in a good mood.
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La Russa, under fire in Chicago in his second season as manager as his team drifted below .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 was advised to see cardiologists in Arizona. La Russa, the oldest major league manager, has one year left on his three-year contract.
Bench coach Miguel Cairo, who played for La Russa with the Cardinals, was successful in Tuesday’s game and was expected to do so again on Wednesday night.
“It’s incredibly difficult,” outfielder Andrew Vaughn told reporters in Chicago. “We really don’t have a lot of information about what’s going on.”
La Russa’s absence on Tuesday was announced about an hour before the first pitch. The 2014 Hall of Famer showed no signs of health issues in his pre-game briefing with reporters and during interviews with general manager Rick Hahn and the former Oakland Athletics pitching star , Dave Stewart, before the game.
La Russa was a controversial hire when he was appointed last year by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, despite Hahn’s reported objections. 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, trailing Cleveland and Minnesota in the American League Central Division race.
La Russa is second only to Connie Mack among major league managers with 2,884 wins. 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 a Cardinals team in 2004.
He led the White Sox previously from 1979 to 1986, winning a division title in 1983.
During his 16 seasons with the Cardinals, La Russa’s teams won division titles in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009 and qualified by wild card in 2001 and 2011 when they won the World Series.
Two days after the end of the 2011 season, La Russa retired after 16 seasons with the Cardinals. He went to work for the commissioner’s office, then took over front office operations for the Arizona Diamondbacks before moving into front office consulting positions with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels before returning to his duties on the field with the White Sox.