BOSTON — 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.”
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.
“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.
Farrell guided Boston to the World Series championship in his first season in 2013. He previously managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two years.
“Sending you best wishes for a speedy recovery. Stay Strong and look forward to seeing you at the ballpark soon,” the Blue Jays tweeted.
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.
Cherington said Farrell told him the news Thursday when the GM was traveling between flights en route to Greenville, South Carolina, to visit one of the team’s Single-A affiliates.
“He called me on a quick layover,” Cherington said. “I was sort of in shock. A few minutes to sink in and I figured I had to get back to Boston last night. I’ve been talking to him yesterday and this morning.”
“There’s a lot of respect for him, not just in the Red Sox organization, but throughout baseball,” he said. “There’s a lot of people already reaching out. He’s someone that spent his whole life in baseball. He’s played, he’s coached, worked in the front office and, obviously, he’s managed now.”
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner spoke about Farrell during the pregame TV telecast.
“We all love John,” he said. “We said the most important thing is get back soon.”
Farrell, a former major league pitcher, was the pitching coach for the 2007 Red Sox when they won the World Series. Ace Jon Lester returned from lymphoma that July and started the clinching game of the Series in Colorado.
“Obviously, we go pretty far back. I talked to him a little bit, already,” said Lester, now pitching for the Chicago Cubs. “He seems pretty positive. Everything seems pretty positive, so that’s good.”
“He’s in a good place for it. That’s obviously one of the better places, if not the best place, in the country to be if you have cancer. He’s in good hands. I know those doctors pretty well,” he said.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona is one of Farrell’s closest friends. Farrell was the pitching coach in Boston under Francona.
“He’s such a tough guy and he has so many people that care about him that I just honestly feel like he will come through this with flying colors,” he said before the Indians played at Minnesota.
“I’m glad we’re going to go through there in a couple days because I’d like to see him. But he sounded really good,” Francona said.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi wished Farrell well.
“It’s not what you want to see. Say some prayers for him and his family, hope everything goes well,” he said before a game in Toronto. “Just get healthy, that’s most important. He’s a good man, a good baseball man, you want to see him get healthy.”
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia echoed that sentiment.
“It’s awful. We heard the prognosis is very good, that’s encouraging,” he said before a game in Kansas City. “But it’s scary whenever you hear of something like that happening. He’s a young man.”
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.
“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,” Ortiz 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.”