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Indians manager Terry Francona undergoes surgery for irregular heart beat, will miss All-Star Game but be back for second half

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CLEVELAND — The Indians announced that manager Terry Francona underwent surgery for an irregular heart beat Thursday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic and that he will return Friday when the unofficial second half begins.

That means Francona will not manage the American League in the All-Star Game in Miami on Tuesday. He had been at the Clinic since Tuesday, as doctors attempted to diagnose the cause of two medical episodes in June that forced Francona to leave games prematurely. He is expected to be released over the next few days.

“He’s actually feeling really good,” said team president Chris Antonetti, who visited Francona on Friday morning. “I think his mind is at ease knowing they were able to perform a successful procedure to get his issue corrected and now he knows that the path in front of him is just a little rest and recovery and he can get back to doing what he loves.

“It couldn’t be really better news in the fact that the issue was corrected with a relatively minor procedure and there was clarity around what it was, and now that is has been corrected, it’s a great relief for everyone as well.”

That includes Indians players, who have been without their manager the past four games.

“(We’re) just happy it sounds like he’s got it figured out and taken care of and that’s what we want him to be, healthy,” reliever Andrew Miller said. “For me, he’s so generous with everything, whether it’s his time or his money or just the way he treats people. Hopefully he’s taking care of himself a little bit right now.

“I think, selfishly, we want him back. He’s a big part of the mood in the clubhouse and the way things go. I think (we’re) happy he’s getting this sorted out ’cause you could tell he just wasn’t quite right.”

The procedure Francona underwent is an ablation, which involved inserting a tube through the leg to the heart. According to the Mayo Clinic website, cardiac ablation uses long, flexible tubes or catheters to deliver energy in the form of heat or extreme cold to modify the tissues in the heart that cause an arrhythmia.

Francona, 58, was looking forward to managing his third All-Star Game, especially with five of his players on the roster. But after meeting with Antonetti, it was decided that rest during the break would be the best path for his recovery.

“I think in the end he was good with the plan,” Antonetti said. “It took some dialogue to get there, but I think as Tito said, ‘I want to get back to doing what I love and what matters most and that’s managing the Cleveland Indians, and what would put me in the best position to do that for the second half of the season?’ And I think as we walked through that it made sense for him to get a few days, get out of the hospital and recover. Not go to Miami. Not be on late flights and have all the obligations that go around the All-Star game because that way when he’s managing Friday, he’s in a really good spot.”

Bench coach Brad Mills, who has been filling in for Francona, and the rest of the Indians’ coaching staff will handle the managerial responsibilities in the All-Star Game, along Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, a former Cleveland coach.

Mills and Francona are close friends, but Francona’s act is tough to follow.

“It’s been seamless but it’s certainly a different personality,” Miller said of the transition from Francona to Mills. “I think there’s a way he kind of handles a group of players that’s unique to anybody. It’s a special way, whether it’s energy or just the way he communicates with us or whatever. There’s a certain looseness that he fosters, I guess. While we miss that, we’re ballplayers. We can find a way to get through it until he gets back, but we certainly miss him at the same time.”

“It’s not the same, there’s no doubt,” Mills said. “The ballclub loves T. They love how he’s around every day.”

“He’s our leader,” left fielder Michael Brantley said. “The energy level, he keeps guys loose in the dugout. He’s a player’s manager, we always say it, so we’re going to love to have him back. He’ll be back soon and we’ll have him back with open arms.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.



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