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Francona gets fresh start with Indians

Associated Press Modified: October 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm •  Published: October 8, 2012
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Tito Francona said he offered his son some advice when he learned he was interviewing in Cleveland.

"I said, 'Stop right there,'" the elder Francona said.

Francona has not yet hired any coaches for his staff. Alomar is under contract for one more season with Cleveland and has been offered the chance to return as the team's bench coach. But the 46-year-old Alomar could be a candidate for other managerial openings in Boston and Colorado.

Since accepting the Indians' offer on Saturday, Francona said he has reached out to several players on Cleveland's roster and is eager to begin getting the Indians, who haven't made the playoff since 2007 — when they lost to Francona and the Red Sox in the ALCS — headed in the right direction.

"This is a clean slate for everybody," said Francona. "Dealing with players is fun. Dealing with young players is really fun."

Francona said the year working as a broadcaster has re-energized him. He acknowledged making mistakes during his final season in Boston as the Red Sox collapsed by going 7-20 in September and missed the playoffs. The pressure took its toll on Francona, forcing him to withdraw from the game and reflect "on what mattered to me."

"To do this job and do it correctly, you've got to be all in all the time," Francona said. "I was showing some signs of wear and tear. But I wouldn't have interviewed here if I didn't think it was the right thing to do."

Francona has some simple goals for the Indians.

"We're going to compete," he said. "We're always going to compete. We may not win every game, but we won't back down from anyone."

With Cleveland, Francona won't enjoy the same hefty payroll he had with the Red Sox, who were able to add high-priced free agents to complement their stable of young talent. While some fans fixate on baseball's economic imbalance, Francona said success and failure isn't predicated on dollars spent.

"Tampa has done if for years in the American League East," he said. "They've gone toe to toe with Boston and New York. Oakland is doing it. That's not something I spend a whole lot of energy on. My job is to get the players that we have to play the utmost of their ability, and then even beyond that to care about each other on the field fiercely and start building loyalty.

"I don't really care what players are making. What I want them to do is play the game right."

As word circulated around baseball of his interest in the Indians, Francona said he was met by some who wondered if he was serious.

Cleveland? Really?

"They said, 'What are you doing? Why don't you wait for a team that's guaranteed to win?' The people that were asking didn't know me as well as I thought," he said. "I'm looking forward to this challenge. I can't guarantee we're going to win. Nobody can, but I'm excited about the chance to go about this and make this better."