Francona is confident in directing Cleveland again

CLEVELAND – Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is confident he will return next season after missing most of the past two due to serious health issues.

Francona was forced to leave the club in late July to undergo hip replacement surgery, as well as a procedure on a big toe that was partially removed last winter after it became infected.

The 62-year-old remains on crutches and has a major medical check-up scheduled for next week. Francona said the visit could determine if he can get back to driving the way he wants.

“That’s a great appointment for the doctor’s admission,” he said Wednesday in a Zoom call with team president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff. “We got through that day and things should be fine.

“Barring any unforeseen events, I would really like to go back and be healthy enough to accept what the job entails and go through it with people I enjoy and respect.”

Francona detailed some of his struggles in 2021, when he was forced to wear a walking boot that inhibited his ability to move.

“This year was tough,” he said. “It was all tough. Whether it was getting to the bench or getting a pitcher out. It exhausted me a bit. I felt like I couldn’t do my job properly.”

When the discomfort became too much, Francona opted to leave the team and have the operations and begin rehab with the goal of returning in 2022, when the Cleveland team will be called the Guardians.

Francona said her hip surgery was “a piece of cake” compared to her toe operation.

“They put eight pins and a rod in it,” he said. “It’s not something you necessarily want to look at before going to dinner.”

Antonetti knows what Francona has gone through physically and admires her toughness.

“He just mentioned that hip replacement surgery was a piece of cake compared to many other things that he had to deal with,” he said. “So if that gives you some context, I would imagine that most people who have undergone hip replacements wouldn’t say it was a piece of cake.”

Francona, a two-time World Series champion with Boston, has spent nine seasons with the Indians. He was sidelined for most of the 2020 season shortened by a gastrointestinal problem that led to him being hospitalized with blood clotting problems.

Last season was just as difficult for Francona, who acknowledged that he still “has a long way to go.”

“I think I have time, and I need it, to gain some strength and be healthy and to be able to enjoy or embrace what it takes to be a coach and get things done on the field and not feel like I’m falling short,” said.

Cleveland’s 80-82 score was the first time he had a losing record since Francona took over the team in 2012. He has 723 wins with the franchise, five away from tying Lou Boudreau for the club record.

While out, the Indians went 30-33 with bench coach DeMarlo Hale directing.