Manager OK: 'I'm embarrassed more than anything'

BOSTON -- Terry Francona didn't feel well when he woke up Monday morning. But he wasn't worried.

Doctors had checked him out extensively after he felt tightness in his chest last Wednesday.

"I got my OK the other day," he said.

So the Boston Red Sox manager ran out of the dugout toward the first base line where he was the first member of the World Series winners to receive his championship ring during a ceremony before the home opener against the New York Yankees.

"I'm just glad I'm available to be here to get introduced," Francona said. "What I really care about today is I want us to win. That's what I needed to get back to.

"We're 2-4 and I'm miserable," he said.

He managed the first two games of the season against the Yankees before being taken to a New York hospital before the final game of the series. He also missed a three-game series in Toronto that ended Sunday.

On the team bus to Wednesday's game, Francona started feeling the tightness in his chest.

"I think I had classic signs of heart problems," Francona said. "It runs in my family so much that it sent up a lot of red flags. I think it scared me a little bit, too."

He still had his sense of humor Monday when he joked about the way closer Keith Foulke gave up two runs in the ninth inning before retiring the side in Boston's 6-5 win on Friday.

"If I didn't have a heart attack then, I'm never going to," Francona said.

He did come into his Fenway Park office briefly Sunday.

"I'm not sure I had to, but it was a good excuse to get out," Francona said. "It's just because I've been in bed for five days. I just need to get my strength back."

Team physician Dr. Thomas Gill has said that tests showed no evidence of a serious heart problem and Francona's chest pains were probably caused by "a recent viral illness." Francona said he wasn't feeling well the last two weeks of spring training.

"I was really struggling but I wouldn't give myself a day off and I probably should have," he said. "I think I probably ended up paying the price."

Francona was concerned because of his family's history of heart problems. Several males have died from heart-related conditions and his father, former major-league outfielder Tito Francona, has had two open-heart surgeries, he said.

Francona said tests showed that his heart's condition was as good as it was before he the chest tightness.

He plans to adopt better dietary and exercise habits but won't decrease his passion for his job or his sense of obligation to the Red Sox.

He was "embarrassed, probably, more than anything. I think I scared myself a little bit," Francona said. "I think what I really feel is I have an obligation to this organization and I missed it for a few days.

"This is our passion, this is what we care about. It's going to be hard for this not to be stressful because as a manager you're supposed to care about everything. It's not just wins and losses. It's the players. It's the trainers, it's the clubhouse people. Everybody comes to you," he said.

On Monday, he returned to them when he entered the clubhouse for the Red Sox's first game at Fenway Park since they won Game 2 of the World Series en route to a four-game sweep of St. Louis.

"He was just about crying when he walked in," center fielder Johnny Damon said. "He really missed us."

Francona said his players greeted him warmly before the game.

"They seemed a little bit happy to see me," he joked. "They're probably faking it a little."