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NESN's Remy takes leave of absence

NESN's Remy takes leave of absence

BOSTON -- Jerry Remy, the popular Red Sox color commentator for NESN, will be off the air for the foreseeable future in an effort to fully recover from cancer surgery.

NESN.com released a statement Wednesday night announcing that Remy, who flew back to Boston midway through the team's last road trip, is taking an indefinite leave of absence.

The press release was the first public mention that Remy had undergone surgery for lung cancer in late last year.

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"I want to focus on completing my recovery so that I can return to work without distractions or interruptions," said Remy in a statement.

Remy, 56, also missed a large portion of Spring Training, but was back on the air for Opening Day, his 22nd in the broadcast booth for the Red Sox. However, he now admits he rushed back to work.

Remy elaborated further in a blog entry.

"In November I had a very small, low-grade cancerous area removed from my lung," said Remy. "I was fortunate that it was discovered at an early stage.  Except for the surgery, I required no additional treatments.  I left the hospital with a clean bill of health. 

"Unfortunately, following the surgery, I developed a bad infection further compounded by a case of pneumonia.  It was the pneumonia and the infection that set me back.  This all happened just as I was leaving for Spring Training. In hindsight, it was a mistake to go and I am paying the price for it now. As NESN announced, I am taking a leave of absence so that I can fully recover."

Several of the Red Sox players and coaches have close ties to Remy, who travels with the team and often frequents the clubhouse.

"We're certainly thinking about him a lot," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I've talked to Rem quite a few times this winter, and at least stayed in touch with him. He knows we're thinking about him. I know the statement came out [today], so it's an official statement, but this has been going on for a while. He's in our thoughts and prayers -- always is. He's a good friend of everybody's."

"Rem Dawg is awesome," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's great. We get a chance to see him all the time. Just in the clubhouse and stuff like that, he's always saying little things that pick you up. He needs to get well and we're going to miss him in the time that he's gone. Absolutely our prayers are with him. Everyone loves the Rem Dawg. He has that personality."

Remy does not doubt that his lung cancer was brought on by years of smoking. By going public with his condition, Remy hopes others will learn from it.

"I hope that disclosing my bout with cancer will reinforce the dangers of smoking to every member of Red Sox Nation, especially children," Remy said.

"Jerry is beloved, and on behalf of everyone in Red Sox Nation, I want him to know that he is in our thoughts," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "We will sorely miss him in the broadcast, but the most important thing is that he takes all the time he needs to recover."

Though Remy was a solid Major League player, hitting .275 over a 10-year career (1975-84) that included seven seasons with his hometown Red Sox, he has become far more popular in Red Sox Nation during his time in the booth.

Remy has reached cult-figure status, entertaining fans over the years with his playful banter with current play-by-play man Don Orsillo, and before that, Sean McDonough.

Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley will continue to fill in for Remy for the remainder of Boston's five-game homestand, which started Wednesday night.

Dave Roberts, Boston's 2004 postseason hero who was recently hired as a studio analyst by NESN, will work the team's upcoming, six-game road trip.

No decision has been made yet about who will join Orsillo after May 17.

"As part of the NESN family, we want Jerry to concentrate on his health and getting well. When he's ready to return, his place in the booth will be waiting for him," said NESN president Sean McGrail. "In the meantime, we ask everyone to respect Jerry's privacy so that he can focus fully on his recovery."

Remy looks forward to returning to work.

"While physically I have no issues, the past few months have been emotionally draining, and exhausting for both my family and I," Remy said in his blog. "Along those lines, I would like to thank NESN and the Red Sox for allowing me to take as much time as I need. I am not certain exactly when I will return, but I will keep you posted. I want to make sure that when I do return I can be with the team all the way to the 2009 World Series!"

Until Remy does get back to the booth, viewers of Red Sox telecasts are likely to feel the void.

"I think all our good thoughts and prayers are with him," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I think when you talk about Jerry, he's one of the voices of the Red Sox and someone who seems like such a staple of this organization. I think we're all wishing him in the best and hopefully he can get back in the booth where he belongs.

What makes Remy so unique?

"He has that type of humor where he always keeps the fans entertained," Lowell said. "My dad switched cable companies just to be able to get the home feed to listen to him. I think he catches the eyes of a lot of people and gives the game in a way that's very enjoyable. That's not an easy thing to do, and I think he does it very well and a lot of people enjoy his work."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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