CLEVELAND — Terry Francona has joined Sandy Alomar Jr. as a candidate to become manager of the Cleveland Indians.
Alomar prepared for his first game as interim manager Friday, a day after Manny Acta was fired. General manager Chris Antonetti said both were candidates and others currently employed by teams could become part of the search.
“I’m excited and I’m honored that they would give me an interview,” Francona told the Associated Press. “I know Sandy Alomar is also a candidate. He’s a good friend of mine. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I will do my homework over the next week.”
Francona, who managed Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, was a special assistant in Cleveland’s front office in 2001. He is intrigued by the chance to work again with Indians president Mark Shapiro and Antonetti.
“Chris and Mark are very dear to me and very important to me,” he said. “I know there are challenges and I look forward to maybe having the chance to work again with people I care about.”
Francona has been an ESPN analyst since leaving the Red Sox after last season. He played briefly in Cleveland in 1988, following father Tito. Terry Francona managed Philadelphia from 1997-00.
Before his first game in charge, Alomar thanked the man he replaced, and gave a glimpse of his own philosophy.
“You have to put yourself last if you want to lead,” said the former All-Star catcher, who spent the first 11 seasons of his 18-year playing career in Cleveland.
“You have to serve first,” Alomar said. “Be unselfish and do what you can for others.”
It is a lesson learned as a youngster from his father Sandy, a major-league infielder in the 1960s and 70s. Alomar’s younger brother, Roberto, was his teammate in Cleveland and elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Alomar, MVP of the 1997 All-Star Game played in Cleveland and one of the most popular players in franchise history, said that if he gets hired permanently, it would be his dream job.
“I went to Chicago and then bounced around after leaving the Indians, but I was never treated the way I was here,” he said.
“If it happens that the organization feels it is my time, great. But nobody owes me anything.”
Alomar addressed the team, telling players all he expects is for them to “be relaxed, take pride in the game and go out and play.”
He said that Acta helped him grow into a candidate for the permanent position as manager.
“He played a big role in bringing me back to Cleveland and it is not easy to replace a guy like him,” Alomar said.
When Acta was hired as manager in 2010, handed the task of rebuilding the Indians, he asked to have Alomar on his staff as first-base coach. Alomar became bench coach this year.
Alomar had no managerial experience on any level before the Indians played the Kansas City Royals on Friday. He said being involved in all facets of the game as a catcher prepared him for the job. He credited former Indians manager Mike Hargrove and Charlie Manuel with giving him leadership tips. He also learned from former New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel while on his staff in 2008-09.
“Grover was a great influence on me,” Alomar said. “He let me play, but he pushed me.”
Alomar would not discuss why the Indians went from contenders to last place. They led the AL Central on May 28 but were 38-70 since, including 21-50 since the All-Star break.
“We’ve got talent,” Alomar said. “We have to stay focused. The guys are battling, they’ve never quit, but the results just were not there.”
Closer Chris Perez said players respect Alomar’s accomplishments. The outspoken right-hander added it is unfair to expect a miracle turnaround without other changes.
“They came to the conclusion Manny could not take us to the championship level,” Perez said. “Well, the players currently in this locker room are not going there, either. We have to get better.”
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo said all the players feel they let down Acta and hope they finish strong for Alomar.
“We respect Sandy, but our record is not his fault or Manny’s fault,” Choo said. “Players make managers good or bad. We made Manny have a bad record even though he made good decisions. I hope we don’t let Sandy down.”