Terry Francona confident he'll return as Cleveland Indians' manager in 2022

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona is confident he'll return next season after missing most of the past two because of serious health issues.

Francona was forced to step away from the club in late July to undergo hip replacement surgery as well as a procedure on a big toe that was partially removed last winter after it became infected.

The 62-year-old remains on crutches and has an important medical checkup scheduled for next week. Francona said the visit could determine whether he's able to return to managing the way he wants.

"That's a big appointment by the doctor's admission," he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with team president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff. "We get through that day and things should be OK.

"Barring anything unforeseen, I'd really like to come back and be healthy enough to embrace what the job entails and go through it with people that I enjoy and respect."

Francona detailed some of his struggles in 2021, when he was forced to wear a walking boot that inhibited his ability to get around.

"This year was hard," he said. "Everything was hard. Whether it was getting to the dugout, or taking a pitcher out. It kind of wore me down. I felt like I wasn't able to do my job appropriately."

When the discomfort became too much, Francona opted to leave the team and have the operations and get a jump start on rehab with the goal of returning in 2022, when Cleveland's team will be called the Guardians.

Francona said his hip surgery was "a piece of cake" compared to the operation on his toe.

"They put eight pins in and a rod," he said. "It's not something you necessarily want to look at before you go eat dinner."

Antonetti knows what Francona has been through physically and admires his toughness.

"He just referenced hip replacement surgery was a piece of cake compared to a lot of the other stuff he's had to navigate," he said. "So if that gives you some context, I imagine most people that have had hip replacements wouldn't say that it was a piece of cake."

A two-time World Series title winner with Boston, Francona has spent nine seasons with the Indians. He was sidelined for the majority of the abbreviated 2020 season with a gastrointestinal issue that led to him being hospitalized with blood clotting issues.

This past season was just as difficult on Francona, who acknowledged he's still "got a ways to go."

"I think I have time to, and I need the time, to gain some strength and get healthy and be able to enjoy or embrace what it takes to be a manager and doing the things on the field and not feel like I'm shorting the organization," he said.

Cleveland's 80-82 finish was the first time it had a losing record since Francona took over the team in 2012. He has 723 wins with the franchise, five away from tying Lou Boudreau for the club record.

While he was out, the Indians went 30-33 with bench coach DeMarlo Hale managing.

Game notes
Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo will not be back in '22. Cleveland became the first team in history to be no-hit three times in one season. ... Antonetti would not disclose the club's plans on contract options for All-Sar 3B José Ramírez or C Roberto Pérez. Ramírez had another brilliant season with 36 homers, 103 RBI and 27 stolen bases. His $12 million option is a steal and it's possible the club will try to sign him to a long-term deal.