By Tom Withers
CLEVELAND (AP) — Terry Francona’s heart, of all things, has kept him away from baseball.
Cleveland’s passionate and driven manager underwent a procedure Thursday to correct an irregular heartbeat that sidelined him for a few games and will prevent him from managing in the All-Star Game next week.
The 58-year-old Francona had been experiencing dizziness, fatigue and a rapid heart rate for several weeks. He had a cardiac ablation at the Cleveland Clinic, where he continues to recover after being admitted Tuesday.
He is resting comfortably and is expected to be discharged in a “day or two,” the Indians said Friday. The plan is for him to resume managing after the All-Star break. Cleveland begins its unofficial second half of the season July 14 in Oakland to start a six-game trip.
Francona’s condition had been weighing on the Indians for weeks, even affecting their play. But now that doctors have pinpointed his problem and he’s been treated, those feelings have eased.
“Just happy it sounds like he’s got it figured out and taken care of,” All-Star reliever Andrew Miller said. “That’s what we want, him to be healthy. He’s so generous with everything, whether it’s his time or his money or the way he treats people. Hopefully, he’s taking care of himself right now. Selfishly, we want him back. He’s a big part of the mood in the clubhouse and the way things go.”
Francona was twice forced to leave in the middle of games last month after falling ill. He was admitted to the hospital this week after doctors detected an arrhythmia from a monitor he has been wearing for several weeks.
With Francona unable to manage the All-Stars in Miami next week, the job will fall to Indians bench coach Brad Mills. Mills has been filling in while Francona has been out and will manage an AL team featuring five Indians players. Mills will be assisted by Cleveland’s staff and Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, who previously worked for the Indians.
“If T’s not going to be there, I think the staff is ready to kind of step up and all share in those duties, and we’re all excited about it,” Mills said.
Francona and his staff earned the opportunity to lead the All-Star team after guiding Cleveland to the World Series last season, the team’s first since 1997.
Francona was forced to leave two games last month when he became lightheaded. He had tests following both episodes and team president Chris Antonetti said this week that doctors had ruled out any major health issues.
Francona also missed a game in Washington last August after he experienced chest pains. During a series last weekend in Detroit, Francona wasn’t feeling well again and he was admitted to the hospital July 4 because of abnormal heart readings.
Doctors performed an ablation in which a tube is inserted through the leg and guided to the heart. Damaged tissue is then treated with heat, cold or radio energy to help prompt regular heartbeats.
Antonetti had been adamant to Francona about putting his health first. He acknowledged that Francona can be stubborn and perhaps not the ideal patient. However, after speaking with him on Friday, Antonetti said Francona accepted the team’s short-term plans.
“It took some dialogue to get there,” Antonetti said. “But I think as Tito said, ‘I want to get back to doing what I love and what matters most and that’s managing the Cleveland Indians and what would put me in the best position to do that for the second half of the season?’
“And I think as we walked through that it made sense for him to get a few days, get out of the hospital and recover. Not go to Miami. Not be on late flights and have all the obligations that go around the All-Star Game because that way when he’s managing Friday, he’s in a really good spot.”
In his fifth season with Cleveland, Francona is hugely popular with his players and fans, who affectionately refer to him as “Tito,” his father’s name.
The team plans to display get-well cards at Progressive Field on Friday for fans to sign and present to Francona, who has led the Indians to a winning record in his previous four seasons.
Francona joined the Indians in 2013 after spending one year as a TV commentator following a messy departure in Boston, where he took the Red Sox to two World Series titles in eight seasons.
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