Tony La Russa calls his return to the Chicago White Sox dugout ‘uncertain’ in Oakland: ‘A lot of it is going to depend on the experts’

Tony La Russa was back at a ballpark Sunday, participating in a ceremony honoring former pitcher Dave Stewart at Oakland Coliseum.

The Chicago White Sox manager is awaiting the OK from doctors to return to the dugout.

“A lot of it is going to depend on the experts,” La Russa said before Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics when asked about his expectations to be back. “Reading the situation, they’ll ask how I feel, could I do a little more. And how you respond to the little more affects it.

“It’s uncertain. In the meantime, it will be fun to watch (the Sox) stay in contention.”

La Russa jokingly added, “I know if we lose (Sunday), first game in person, I won’t be on that plane (returning to Chicago with the team).”

The Sox were unable to complete a four-game sweep Sunday, losing 10-3 in front of 11,701.

The A’s scored six runs in the fifth as the Sox lost for just the fourth time in 13 games since Aug. 30.

“What can I say, just a bad outing,” Sox starter Johnny Cueto said through an interpreter. “It wasn’t my day.”

The A’s had more hits in the fifth (six) than the Sox had in the game (four).

The loss, combined with Cleveland’s 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins, dropped the Sox to 2½ games behind the first-place Guardians in the American League Central.

The Sox went 5-2 on the trip, winning two of three in Seattle and three of four against the A’s.

They’ve been without La Russa, 77, since Aug. 30, when they announced less than an hour before a game against the Kansas City Royals that he would not manage that night at the direction of his doctors.

The next day the Sox said La Russa was out indefinitely and would undergo further testing with doctors in Arizona.

“The way it happened, you come off the field (on Aug. 30) and they tell you — I had an issue in spring training — so when they had some information that needed to (be) addressed and they make it serious enough to where they say, ‘You get out of uniform, you can’t watch the game,’” La Russa said. “I said, ‘OK, right.’ So I watched the game at home.

“Health ain’t nothing to mess with. I got checked in Chicago and the reason I flew to Arizona is because that’s been the place since the ‘90s I’ve had physicals. They addressed it, they fixed it, now it’s just a question of regaining strength. Don’t mess with health.”

La Russa told Janie McCauley of The Associated Press he had a pacemaker inserted for his heart.

He was scheduled to travel to Chicago with the team after Sunday’s game, but his doctors have not cleared his return to the dugout as an active manager.

Asked if he plans to be with the team the rest of the way no matter what, La Russa said: “It all depends. I’m here (Sunday), flying back with them. And we’ll see what they say. I don’t plan to be in uniform until they say it’s time to be in uniform.

“The most important thing is you don’t want to be a distraction. That’s why it’s best to let it run its course and in the meantime, what they’re doing, concentrating and the game they’re playing, if I think I’m distracting being upstairs like (Sunday), then I won’t be up there watching.”

La Russa said he has “watched them all.”

“It’s been outstanding,” he said. “I always said we’ve got a really good staff. I think they united and picked each other up. I talk to (acting manager) Miguel (Cairo) at least twice a day. Talk to (pitching coach) Ethan (Katz).

“But exciting games. Two of those comeback wins (against the Mariners and the A’s) have been critical. The key is they’re having the fun of contending. It’s from here to the end now. It’s been fun to watch.”

La Russa received handshakes and pats from players and coaches Sunday.

“I’m glad to see him,” Cairo said before the game. “He looks really good. I’ve been talking to him, so I know how he feels and he’s feeling good. He’s smiling and I’m glad to see him. I know the whole team is glad to see him.”

The Sox led Sunday’s game 2-1, with José Abreu driving in a run with a double in the first and scoring in the fourth on AJ Pollock’s sacrifice fly to center.

The six-run fifth for the A’s included three singles, two doubles and Ramón Laureano’s two-run homer. The home run came one pitch after third baseman Leury García ran into the spacious foul territory but couldn’t catch a popup near the Oakland dugout.

Cueto allowed seven runs, five earned, on eight hits with three strikeouts and a walk in 4⅔ innings.

“Just one bad inning,” Cairo said. “We got the loss, (but) it was a really good road trip for us.

“It was awesome to see the guys battle every day. Hit, coming back from being down. We did everything the right way. Good pitching. It was a really good trip.”