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Francona upbeat after Tribe managerial interview

CLEVELAND -- Terry Francona is a sucker for a feel-good story. There is such a tale potentially unfolding in Cleveland, where the Indians are searching for a new manager to help steer a struggling ballclub in the right direction.

Francona is auditioning for the role of protagonist.

"It's a good story," Francona said. "It's almost a family feeling."

Francona was in Cleveland on Friday morning for a formal interview for the Indians' manager position, one day after Sandy Alomar Jr. went through a similar process. Both are intriguing candidates -- not to mention the only known choices at the moment -- for a team that is coming off its fourth losing season in a row.

In Francona, the Indians have a high-profile candidate with a wealth of experience.

Francona helped end Boston's 86-year title drought by managing the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series crown, and he repeated the feat three seasons later. Francona's father, Tito, suited up for the Indians from 1959-64, and Terry followed his dad to Cleveland with a front-office position with the organization in 2001.

During his year with the Indians, Francona became good friends with Indians president Mark Shapiro (general manager at the time) and general manager Chris Antonetti. In the decade since their front-office partnership, Francona has remained in regular contact with both men.

All of these factors make Cleveland's job opening appealing to Francona.

"I don't think you can take a job because of that," Francona said. "But it still means a lot to me. Because of Chris and Mark and my relationship [with them], I am excited to try to tackle, or attempt to tackle, every challenge that comes our way and do it together."

Francona arrived to Progressive Field early Friday morning for day-long meetings with members of the organization's front office, as well as the scouting and player development departments. Reporters were not permitted to meet with Francona, but the Indians released a brief audio interview with the managerial candidate's thoughts on the interview.

Francona was happy with how things played out on Friday.

"It was fun to catch up," Francona said. "I thought that [the meetings] went great. ... We exchanged a lot of ideas and it was really genuinely fun."

Antonetti echoed that sentiment in an e-mail to

"We really enjoyed our visit with Terry," Antonetti said. "We covered a wide array of topics and emerged from our conversations with a more in-depth understanding of his thoughts on managing and leadership."

The general manager raved about the Francona during a sit-down with reporters on Thursday afternoon.

"Just looking at Terry, he's obviously had a lot of success," Antonetti said. "He's won two world championships. He's also had success in developing players."

As things currently stand, Francona and Alomar are the only publicized candidates for the role formerly held by Manny Acta, who was relieved of his duties on Sept. 27. Cleveland is hoping to name a new manager soon, possibly making a formal announcement as early as Monday or Tuesday.

With Major League Baseball's postseason underway, the Indians would need to coordinate the timing of an announcement with the Commissioner's Office if the ballclub wants to make the hiring official before the conclusion of the World Series.

"With respect to the timing for selecting the next manager," Antonetti said, "our preference would be to work through the process as quickly as possible, but we do not have any firm timetable for resolution at this point."

Francona, 53, has managing experience with both the Phillies (1997-2000) and Red Sox ('04-11), and has a .529 (1029-915) career winning percentage as a big league skipper. Francona was dismissed as Boston's manager at the end of last season, when the Red Sox went 7-20 in September in a drastic collapse from contention.

Over the past year, Francona has worked as an analyst for ESPN, giving him a much-needed break from managing.

"To be perfectly honest, and it's not easy to say, I probably needed to take a step back for a while," Francona said. "I think I had lost a little bit of perspective and I wanted to get back to things that were important to me."

It was a similar second-half fade that cost Acta his job with the Indians this year.

Shortly after dismissing Acta, Antonetti reached out to Francona to gauge his potential interest in managing the Tribe.

"It was great to hear that he was interested," Antonetti said. "I think he's excited to get back on the field. From the conversations I've had with him to date, I'm really looking forward to getting together with him [Friday] to talk further about that."

There has been speculation that the Indians might not be able to afford the kind of salary a manager such as Francona could command. Antonetti said money would not be a stumbling block in this situation.

"I don't expect economics to be an issue in this decision," Antonetti said. "We'll go with the best person that we think fits best for the job."

Francona has fond memories of his time working in Cleveland's front office.

"I had just been let go by the Philadelphia Phillies," Francona said. "Your self esteem takes a hit. I came here and I was trying to find my way back to things that were important to me. Mark Shapiro hired me and through him I met Chris. We've had a relationship now -- a consistent one -- for 10, 11, going on 12 years. That was a good year for me.

"It allowed me to watch the interactions between management and field people without having the emotion of a game hanging over your head. It was a good learning year for me."

Francona now feels the time has come to get back into a dugout. He said that itch to manage again came up throughout the regular season while doing prep work for ESPN's Sunday broadcasts.

"I did miss being on the field," Francona said. "The day I'd say I really got the itch more than any time else was we'd go in on Saturdays to do our prep for the game on Sunday. When I would go down to the clubhouse and be around the players is when it hit me."

Cleveland Indians