Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is not managing the 2017 American League All-Star team in Miami because of his recent health scare. Instead, his longtime bench coach and friend Brad Mills will manage the team.
The 58-year-old Francona was taken to the Cleveland Clinic on July 4 after complaining about chest pains for the past month. He underwent a cardiac ablation for an irregular heartbeat and was released on July 7. Francona has had scares with his heart rate in the past, including during his time as the Boston Red Sox manager.
The former first baseman earned the nickname “Tito” in honor of his father, retired outfielder Tito Francona. He won the 2004 and 2007 World Series as the Red Sox skipper and guided the Indians to the 2016 World Series. He joined the Indians in 2013, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2013 and 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about Francona’s health and why he’s not managing the All-Star Game.
1. Francona Started Wearing a Heart Monitor on June 28 After He Was Hospitalized Twice in June
Francona was hospitalized twice in June and Mills was left to stand-in for him. As Cleveland.com reported on June 14, he left in the middle of a game against the Dodgers because he was ill.
On June 28, after missing the game the day before because of his rapid heart rate, he returned to manage. He was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on June 27 and stayed overnight. He started wearing a heart monitor that day.
“The button marks the time [of the episode], just to see how it’s affecting me,” Francona explained to reporters, reports Cleveland.com. “Because when it happens, my heart rate really picks up fast. They just want to be able to monitor it.”
Francona said his doctors still didn’t know what was causing this, although they have considered that it could be the stress of managing. He’s currently in his 17th year as a manager.
“That’s one thing the doctors have certainly talked about,” Francona said in June. “I’ve tried to even think if it could be. I honestly love what I do. I’ve never once ever thought, ‘Oh, boy, I’ve got to go to the ballpark.’ I feel like I’ve been in much worse places worrying-wise.”
2. Francona Was in the Hospital for 4 Days in July & Had a Cardiac Ablation for an Irregular Heartbeat
“As you know, Tito hasn’t been feeling well over the course of the past few weeks,” Antonetti said. “The doctors of been monitoring him just to see if they can determine what’s caused him to not feel well. So they’re in the process of trying to narrow down exactly what’s been causing his symptoms, so he’s at the Clinic tonight getting some additional tests.”
The Associated Press reported that Francona underwent a heart procedure called “cardiac ablation” for his irregular heartbeat. He was released by the hospital on July 7, but he was advised to skip the All-Star Game.
According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiac ablation is a procedure to correct an arrhythmia, or an irregular heart beat. “Cardiac ablation works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart that triggers or sustains an abnormal heart rhythm. In some cases, cardiac ablation prevents abnormal electrical signals from entering your heart and, thus, stops the arrhythmia,” the Mayo Clinic explains.
3. The Indians Expect Francona to Return for the Indians’ West Coast Trip
On July 8, the Indians said they hope Francona will be back with the team on July 13, when they head out west for a six-game road trip. First, they’ll play the Oakland A’s for three games from July 14-16, then they play inter-league games against the San Francisco Giants from July 17-19. They’ll be back in Cleveland for a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays from July 21-23.
Interim manager Brad Mills told Cleveland.com that he’s been in contact with Francona. The Indians’ front office has also kept the coaching staff in the loop on news about Francona’s health.
“Everyone has worked together to try to have this move forward as seamlessly as possible,” Mills said. “The front office has done a good job of helping us out with information that we might have needed to gather. It’s been a collective effort that has probably made us a little better as a group.”
Mills also joked that if the AL wins, Francona will take credit. But if the AL loses? “Oh, no. No,” Mills said. “He won’t do that.”
4. Francona Had Previous Health Scares in 2005 & 2016
In August 2016, he had an irregular heart beat during a game in Washington D.C. and was sent back to the Indians’ hotel. Francona said he was “embarrassed” by the situation.
In 2005, when Francona was managing the Red Sox, he showed the symptoms of a heart attack at Yankee Stadium.
According to ESPN, Francona fell asleep on the bus ride when Mills woke him up because Francona was sweating. He still tried to manage, but after he had a reaction to a nitroclycerin shot, he was rushed to a hospital. Thankfully, he did not suffer a heart attack.
Doctors “thought one of my [blood] clots had maybe slipped through the little screen in there,” Francona told ESPN in 2016. “It kind of acts like a heart attack and gives you the same feeling, and then because I’m on blood thinners it went away. It put me in the hospital for three days.”
As Cleveland.com notes, Francona’s circulation problems started after a pulmonary embolism in 2002.
5. Francona Missed Winter Meetings for Hip Replacement Surgery in December 2016
Francona also has an artificial right hip. In December 2016, Cleveland.com reported that he missed the MLB winter meetings in Maryland because he was recovering from right hip replacement surgery. He had the surgery just after Game 7 of the World Series on November 2.
“I’ve had both knees done and now my right hip, so if I can get my left one done, then I’ll be fully bionic,” Francona joked in November 2016.
Francona’s mother, Roberta, died of breast cancer in 1992. “I have great memories of her,” Francona told Cleveland.com in May. “I wish she would’ve stuck around a little longer. But I was fortunate to have her as long as I did. When I was growing up, baseball players didn’t make very much money. So for a lot of the time, my mom was mom and dad. She did a heck of a job.”
Francona’s father, Tito Francona, is 83 years old.