(AP) Francona manages at Fenway for 1st time since 2011
By HOWARD ULMAN
AP Sports Writer
Terry Francona felt right at home in the visiting dugout.
Back at Fenway Park as a manager for the first time since being let go by the Boston Red Sox in 2011, he was calm and occasionally funny while wearing the cap of the Cleveland Indians.
After all, he’s back in baseball.
In his first season as their manager in 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Three years later, they won another. And four years after that he was let go following a September collapse that cost the Red Sox a playoff berth.
He spent last season as an ESPN analyst then was hired after Manny Acta and interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. lost 94 games.
The Indians started and ended Thursday in first place in the AL Central, one-half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
There’s less media and fan scrutiny. And there are fewer big-name players than he had in Boston where he managed Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Josh Beckett.
After Francona spoke with reporters for about 20 minutes, Ortiz walked into the dugout with a big smile and embraced his former manager.
Francona said he hadn’t had much time to think how emotional the night would be.
Before the game, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino visited Francona. They had parted with some bad feelings when Francona’s time as manager ended.
After the first inning, a video tribute on the center field scoreboard showed former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, now Francona’s third-base coach, former Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash, now Francona’s bullpen coach, and former Red Sox players Justin Masterson, Mike Aviles and Rich Hill, all with the Indians.
It ended with several scenes of Francona in the dugout and on the field as Boston’s manager, one of them in which he hugged Martinez.
He received a standing ovation and remained in his dugout. He waved his left hand and patted his heart with his right hand.
Francona said he hadn’t spent time thinking how the fans might react.
Francona actually managed as a Fenway visitor while with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000, going 4-4. This season, the Red Sox swept the Indians in a three-game series at Cleveland from April 16-18.
Francona had been back at Fenway several times last year. He returned with ESPN and for the 100th anniversary celebration of the park on April 20.
Among the bigger cheers that day was the chant of “Tito!” that greeted him. He had been angered by a newspaper article revealing details about personal troubles during the 2011 season and said he would not attend but then relented.
On Thursday, he visited with clubhouse attendants and Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick. He spoke with his good friend John Farrell, who took over as Boston manager after Bobby Valentine was fired following a last-place finish in which the team went 69-93.
Aviles ended up in Cleveland after being traded by Toronto. The Blue Jays had obtained him to allow Boston to hire Farrell, who had been their manager.
Francona said he hasn’t changed much since he managed the Red Sox, although the year off refreshed him.
But his goal remains the same, no matter which dugout he manages from _ just win.