CLEVELAND – They say slow and steady wins the race and Cleveland manager Terry Francona is still optimistic that the phrase will ring true for him when Spring Training rolls around.
After spending the last three months recovering from surgeries on his hip and left foot, Francona is hoping to be nearing the end of his time on crutches. He underwent his nine-week X-ray on his foot (which was repaired from a staph infection he was diagnosed with in January) to determine how many more weeks he’ll have to keep all weight off of his left leg. Once that report comes back, he’ll have a better idea of the rest of his recovery path this offseason.
“I’ve been going to therapy, I'm trying to get healthy,” Francona said, when meeting with local media on Zoom on Friday. “I'm working. I'm trying to get myself positioned to where I can really be excited about baseball. I love it so much and I love where I do it so much, but I want to be able to enjoy it. So I've been working hard. And I'll be able to work harder, obviously, once I get rid of these damn crutches.”
Francona was cleared to return to his home in Arizona, where he’s been able to continue his physical therapy. His recovery following his hip procedure at the end of July was quick and seamless, allowing him to undergo the procedure on his left foot to insert eight pins and a rod soon after.
“I don’t think I quite knew how extensive this last surgery was until after it was over,” Francona said. “My hip was a piece of cake. I mean my hip was a piece of cake. This has been hard.”
Francona has never sugarcoated just how difficult this process has been, but as his recovery progresses, he’s continued to remain positive about his return to baseball in 2022. And being back in warmer temperatures in Arizona has only helped his optimism.
“Since I’ve been back to Arizona, it’s a lot easier,” Francona said. “Even if I’m sitting around, I can sit out in the sun, I can read a book, I have the ability to go to swim, I have the ability to work out a little bit even if it’s hobbling around. When you feel like you’re going in the right direction, it sure is easy to start feeling a little bit more positive, a little more energetic. Just feel better about things. When you’re laying in an apartment in Cleveland, it’s hard to feel good about a lot of stuff.”
Franmil to play in Dominican League
Cleveland slugger and outfielder Franmil Reyes informed Francona that he’ll be getting some extra reps this winter in the Dominican Republic – his native country. He’ll be joining the Leones del Escogido, sharing a clubhouse with 21-year Major League veteran Albert Pujols.
“I think the chance to play with Albert Pujols a little bit was too much for him to pass up,” Francona said, “for him to be able to pick his brain and be a part of that for a little while.”
The experience with the Dominican League will be more than picking the brain of one of baseball’s biggest superstars for Reyes. The 26-year-old power hitter is looking to get himself in better physical shape to be a more consistent and reliable option for the team in the outfield. He served as Cleveland’s designated hitter 103 times this season, heading to right field in just 11 games.
“We talked at length and he was really good about it,” Francona said. “And he said, ‘I know I need to be good enough out there where I belong out there and I’m not hurting the team.’ His plan is to shed some weight and get himself flexible enough and mobile enough that he can go out there. I told him to move out in left field and right field just to keep more options open, the more options that are open the better for everybody.”
Front office promotions
Now that Cleveland’s assistant general manager, Carter Hawkins, has been hired as the Cubs’ GM, the club announced a handful of promotions on Friday to fill his vacancy.
Assistant general manager Matt Forman has been promoted to executive vice president, assistant GM. Former vice president of player development James Harris and vice president of baseball operations Eric Binder will now also join Forman as assistant GMs.
“Matt has been an integral member of our leadership team for a number of years,” Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “His promotion will allow him to help Mike [Chernoff] and I lead all areas of baseball operation across the organization.”
“I was not an advocate of Binder nor Forman,” Francona joked, in his usual sarcastic tone. “No, it was actually — when Chris told me the other day, my eyes lit up when I got a chance to talk to him. It was really fun and really refreshing. It kind of made me feel good, so that’s pretty cool.”