The Indians played much of the 2020 season, which ended with last week’s Wild Card loss to the Yankees in the American League playoffs, without manager Terry Francona, who left the team to address health issues in August. Luckily, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti expects a healthy Tito to return to the dugout in 2021.
It’s been a rough year for Francona on the health front. The former Red Sox and Phillies bench boss experienced gastrointestinal issues in spring training before his condition worsened with a series of blood clots in August. The 61-year-old Francona had hoped to return for Cleveland’s postseason run (which, as fate would have it, lasted all of two games), but the Indians ultimately decided it was best to keep him on the shelf.
Francona, a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox, appears to be making good progress at home in Arizona, where the Indians will hold spring training in February, barring any further COVID developments. “He’s starting to feel better and he’s really confident he’ll be able to manage right from the start next season,” Antonetti said Tuesday in comments transcribed by Tom Withers of the Associated Press.
Francona, who ranks 18th all-time and second among active managers in career victories, also endured a health scare in 2017, missing a chunk of the season after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Interim skipper Sandy Alomar will presumably shift back to his role as first base coach if Francona gets the green light to resume managing. However, given how well the Tribe performed under Alomar this year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the former catcher attracted managerial interest outside the organization. The Red Sox and Tigers both have vacancies.