Fighting back tears, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday that he had a “highly curable” form of cancer and has taken a medical leave for the rest of the season to deal with lymphoma.
The 53-year-old Farrell said bench coach Torey Lovullo will run the team in his absence. Farrell said he planned on being back with the team for spring training.
Farrell said the cancer of the lymphatic system was discovered when he had hernia surgery in Detroit earlier this week.
“I know we usually start out with the injury report. I’ll start out with myself on this one. Monday’s surgery for the hernia revealed that I have lymphoma,” he said before Friday night’s game at Fenway Park against Seattle.
“Thankfully, it was detected in the hernia surgery. I can honestly tell you I’m extremely fortunate that it was found. Treatment will begin in the coming days,” he said.
Farrell said a mass was completely removed during the procedure and no additional surgery was necessary. He said chemotherapy would start early next week.
Red Sox stars David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia stood along a wall to Farrell’s left when he made the announcement. Vice President Sam Kennedy, general manager Ben Cherington and Lovullo also were in the room.
“A little bit of a shocker to be told later that afternoon that this was going on. Like I said, I’m fortunate,” Farrell said. “Stage 1. It’s localized. It’s highly curable. I’m extremely fortunate to not only be with people with the Red Sox, but access to MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) and world class talent that can handle this.”
On Tuesday, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said he is being treated for Hodgkin lymphoma, and his doctors consider it “very treatable and curable.” His plans were to remain coach and team president while being treated.
The Red Sox are in last place in the AL East with a 50-64 record. In February, Farrell’s contract was extended through 2017 with a club option for 2018.
Farrell guided Boston to the World Series championship in his first season in 2013. He previously managed the Toronto Blue Jays.
The former major league pitcher was the pitching coach for the Red Sox in 2007 when they won the World Series. That season, ace Jon Lester returned from lymphoma in late July and started the clinching game of the Series in Colorado.
Farrell said he never had any symptom before the notification of the cancer discovery.
Ortiz said he heard about Farrell’s condition from teammate Hanley Ramirez, who was crying when he delivered the news.
“When they mentioned the word ‘cancer,’ it’s something that it doesn’t matter where it comes from, it kind of impacts you,” Ortiz said.
“We have a big family around here and definitely when it comes down to health issues, you want to be sure that everything goes OK. The organization is taking a lot of responsibility on that to make sure that John gets through it the way it’s supposed to be,” the slugger said.
Farrell was touched by his players’ support.
“In a way, you live vicariously through their careers,” he said. “Yours is over, you try to help when you can with them, and when they show that support, it’s meaningful.”