CLEVELAND -- A few miles east of Progressive Field, Indians manager Terry Francona has been monitoring his team from a hospital bed at the Cleveland Clinic. The specifics of Francona's status remain vague, but the situation has been serious enough to keep him away from the dugout for the past three games.
On Thursday night, the Indians carried on, pushing aside the frustrations of the previous two games with an encouraging 11-2 victory over the Padres. As the fireworks popped overhead and the players lined up for the celebratory postgame handshakes, their leader was again noticeably absent.
"We need him at the helm here, there's no doubt about it," starter Josh Tomlin said. "He's a huge part of our success. He knows the game. He knows the players really well. And his presence alone has that sense of calm in the dugout."
Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti met with reporters on both Tuesday and Wednesday, explaining that Francona was at the Clinic to undergo a series of tests in an effort to find out what has been ailing him recently. There was no such update either before or after Thursday's win, but Antonetti said one day earlier that Francona would miss at least a few more games.
Last month, Francona exited games on June 13 and 26 due to being light-headed and an elevated heart rate, and he had been wearing a heart-rate monitor since the second episode in order for doctors to track his status. Following an off-day on Monday, Francona reported to Progressive Field on Tuesday, went over the day's plan with bench coach Brad Mills and then headed to the Cleveland Clinic.
The time frame for Francona's return, and whether this will impact his ability to manage the American League All-Star team on Tuesday in Miami, remains unclear.
"We don't have any updates yet," Mills said after Thursday's game. "Hopefully we hear something pretty quick."
Mills will handle the managerial duties until Francona's return, and Antonetti noted that the team has not yet decided whether to add another person to the mix to help the coaching staff. Both Antonetti, and the players, said the environment created by Francona has led to a seamless transition for Mills, pitching coach Mickey Callaway, and the other coaches.
"The one thing about Tito," closer Cody Allen said, "is he provides such a consistency and it's worn off on a lot of the guys here. The staff that's here -- Millsy, Mickey, all those guys -- they're basically an extension of him."
"Him and Millsy working together is one of the most impressive things I've seen," added outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall.
Over the past few days, players have continued to reach out to Francona, too.
"Our hearts are there," outfielder Michael Brantley said. "We contact him when we can to make sure he's doing OK. But, at the same time, we know that he wants us to go out there and play baseball, and play competitive baseball. When he gets back, it's going to be a blessing. We know he's going to be back -- it's just a matter of when. We'll be excited to have him back."
The players want to make sure Francona comes back at full strength.
When Francona discusses players who are sidelined with injuries, he always emphasizes the importance of not rushing back before being 100 percent. Around the clubhouse, multiple players echoed that sentiment in regards to Francona's situation.
"Get it right and then get back when he's ready to go," Chisenhall said. "We need him in the dugout. I know it's hurting him to not be able to be out there. He's watching in some form, I'd imagine."