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Indians’ Francona stepping down for physical health issues

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona speaks at a news conference, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Cleveland. Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland's Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians. The ballclub announced the name change Friday, effective at the end of the 2021 season. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Indians manager Terry Francona is stepping down for the remainder of this season to address some lingering health issues.

The 62-year-old Francona has been wearing a boot on his right foot all season after undergoing toe surgery for a staph infection in February. The toe issue has exasperated hip problem, which will require surgery.

Francona will have his left hip replaced Monday at the Cleveland Clinic, and once he recovers from that procedure, he’ll have a rod inserted into his foot.

He’s agonized for weeks over his inability to manage the way he wants, and Francona said the decision to step down was difficult.

“I didn’t feel like I was doing my job appropriately,” Francona said Thursday on a Zoom call. “I wanted to manage this year and I got as far as I could. “I gave it my best shot.”

Francona said he can’t think about whether he’ll be back managing the Indians next season.

“I’ve got a long road ahead of me. I know that,” he said. “Today wasn’t the greatest day, but I’ve taken a big step toward getting healthy. I’ve got to get healthy.”

Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said he marveled at Francona’s determination to push through the pain this season. Francona said everything has been difficult, and his days have been limited to going to the ballpark and then home afterward to get off his feet.

“I’m in awe of Tito’s toughness and perseverance,” Antonetti said referring to Francona by his nickname.

This is the second year in a row Francona, a two-time World Series champion manager with the Boston Red Sox, has been sidelined due to his health. He managed just 14 games in 2020 due to a serious gastrointestinal issue that landed him in the hospital for weeks.

While hospitalized, Francona had blood clotting issues and he was placed in intensive care.

Bench coach DeMarlo Hale will take over on an interim basis for the rest of this season while Francona focuses on his health. Third base coach Mike Sarbaugh will take Hale’s spot and assistant coach Kyle Hudson will move to third.

First base coach and former Indians All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar filled in for Francona a year ago.

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