With Cleveland trading valuable pieces and seemingly punting on the remainder of the season, those left in the clubhouse will have to move forward without their boss through the end of September.
Cleveland confirmed Thursday night that Francona will step away for the rest of the 2021 campaign to focus on his health. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale had filled in for Francona and will become interim manager:
Terry Francona will step away from managerial duties for the remainder of the 2021 season to focus on his health and recovery.— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 29, 2021
DeMarlo Hale will assume managerial duties for the rest of the season. pic.twitter.com/wDO9xRVuya
The two-time American League Manager of the Year, who previously won a pair of World Series titles managing the Boston Red Sox, did not travel with the team for its weekend series at the Chicago White Sox, according to Zack Meisel of The Athletic.
As Mandy Bell of the league's website explained, Francona was absent for the majority of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season as he battled gastrointestinal issues and, later, multiple blood clots that sent him to the ICU. Bell wrote Thursday that Francona dealt with a staph infection in his foot ahead of spring training this year and was hoping to make it to the upcoming offseason before having surgery to address the issue.
Tito will have his left hip replaced on Monday. Five or six weeks after that he'll have a permanent rod put in his foot (from the staph infection) to start that healing process.— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) July 29, 2021
In corresponding moves, Cleveland is shifting third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh to Hale's bench-coach role, and outfield coach Kyle Hudson is becoming the third-base coach.
Per Baseball-Reference, Francona passed Cleveland icon Mike Hargrove last weekend to become second all-time in franchise managerial wins with 723. Lou Boudreau is atop that list with 728 victories.
Francona, 62, is under contract through 2022, but one wonders if he's managed his last game at the highest level, in general:
Tito was asked about his future beyond 2021: "I've got to get healthy or I can't do this job. So one step at a time."— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) July 29, 2021