By BRIAN DULIK Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona has already scheduled shoulder replacement surgery and plans on having a pair of hernia operations at the end of this season.
The 64-year-old knows his recovery period will be lengthy, and spending another year in the dugout is not conducive to making it a smooth process.
Francona, however, isn’t quite ready to announce his retirement after 11 seasons with the franchise.
“I need to go get healthy for my life, and this lifestyle is just too difficult,” Francona said Wednesday. “I also know how I feel about doing the job a certain way, and I don’t think I can necessarily do that anymore. And that bothers me.
“I don’t want to fib to people (about my future), but I also don’t want the last six weeks to be about me. The focus has to be on the players.”
One Tuesday, Francona inadvertently made himself the focal point of the Guardians’ final 36 games by hinting that he would step down as manager. It made his routine pregame availability anything but.
The timing of his introspective remarks was curious, given that Cleveland is on the periphery of the AL Central race, but didn’t catch team president Chris Antonetti or general manager Mike Chernoff by surprise.
“Tito, Mike and I talk all the time,” Antonetti said. “There was nothing surprising to me or us about what he said yesterday. We want Tito to manage here for as long as he’s able to.
“But the most important thing — and the thing I and we care about the most — is Tito’s life after this and beyond baseball. We want to make sure he’s well positioned to enjoy every moment with his kids and his grandkids and everyone for a long time.”
Antonetti’s longstanding, profound respect for Francona prompted him to make himself available to the media at Progressive Field.
Both of their sessions were melancholy, in stark contrast to the upbeat mood in the Dodgers’ clubhouse down the hall.
The end of an era in Cleveland appears near. The Guardians have made six playoff appearances and reached the 2016 World Series under Francona, whose 904 victories are a franchise record.
In 23 total years as a manager with Cleveland, Philadelphia and Boston, Francona is 1,934-1,652. He ranks 13th all-time in victories.
“When I got done as a player, I had given everything I could — and I knew it and never looked back,” Francona said. “I think that’s probably where I’m at now. I’m in a pretty comfortable place. I’m at peace with it.”