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Guardians manager Terry Francona hints that this could be his final season

CLEVELAND (AP) — Terry Francona might be ready to pull himself from the game.

One of baseball's most popular managers and the winningest in Cleveland history, Francona said Tuesday that he has had serious talks with the organization about his future, hinting that this could be his final season.

The 64-year-old Francona, who has dealt with major health issues in recent years, did not announce his retirement before the opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, he made it sound as if he's ready to move into the next phase of life — whatever that might be.

“I think there’s a time and there will be a time to answer any question there might be about what I’m going to do — or not do,” he said. "I don’t think that’s now, I don’t ever want this to be on me and I just can’t let it.

“The other part is I don’t want to lie or I don’t want to fib.”

Francona is in his 11th season with Cleveland, and said this one has been especially challenging physically for him.

“Old,” he said when asked how he was feeling. “Old and beat up.”

Francona led the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles before joining the Guardians in 2013. He has taken the Guardians to six playoff appearances and the AL pennant in 2016.

Known simply as Tito (his late father's first name), by virtually everyone in the game, Francona has endeared himself to most Cleveland fans with his personable style — he rides a scooter from his downtown apartment to Progressive Field — and because his teams win.

But he's been criticized more than ever this season as the Guardians, who won 92 games and the AL Central title in 2022, have struggled amid a rash of injuries. Cleveland's starting rotation has been ravaged from the start, putting added pressure on some rookie pitchers.

The team also made some trades in July that seemed to point to the team giving up on this year's squad.

Francona's health has been better this season after he was forced to step down during the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to serious health concerns.

He acknowledged that it's been difficult to asses his own situation and future while trying to keep his young team in playoff contention.

“I’ve tried to do that probably the last couple months a lot,” he said. “And I’m not always pleased with the answer I’m getting.”

Francona said he has spoken at length to team president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff. The team has kept his contract open-ended, essentially allowing him to manage for as long as he wants.

“I’ve talked about a fairness to the organization, a fairness to the players and then some of it to me,” he said. "This job is really hard. Not that it’s a bad job, it’s a great job, but it’s hard and the older you get or the more beat up you get and sometimes it’s both.

“It just kind of beats on you, kind of wears on you. And I think so much of this organization, I don’t ever, ever want to do this for the wrong reasons.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts played for Francona in Boston.

“I always admired the way his team played the game,” Robert said. "You could just tell he has the pulse of all his players and I take a lot from that. When I played for him, that was one of the hallmarks – he always has a good rapport with his players.”

Francona entered Tuesday’s game with a record of 904-737 (.551) with the Guardians. He's 1,933-1,652 in 23 seasons, starting with Philadelphia in 1997.

He recently moved into 13th place on the career wins list, moving past Hall of Famer Casey Stengel. Francona played 10 seasons in the majors for Montreal, the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Milwaukee before retiring after the 1990 season.

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