Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco is taking a leave of absence after he was diagnosed with cancer. He's expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the upcoming Pacific Coast League baseball season.
The Houston Astros said the manager of their Triple-A affiliate is expected to make a full recovery with a projected return to Oklahoma City in May. Until then, DeFrancesco will undergo treatment for an unspecified cancer for five to six weeks at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Tom Lawless will serve as the RedHawks interim manager.
“Tony has handled this situation admirably,” said Quinton McCracken, the Astros' player development director. “Tony has done a tremendous job with our players and is a credit to our organization. We know he'll tackle this, and we look forward to his return to OKC.”
DeFrancesco, 50, has been one of the most successful Triple-A managers in the last decade, leading teams in Sacramento and Oklahoma City to winning records. He lived his dream two years ago when he was named the Astros' interim manager late in the 2012 season after Brad Mills was fired. A Houston team that lost 107 games was 16-25 under DeFrancesco.
That offseason, the Astros hired Bo Porter as Houston's new manager. DeFrancesco returned to Triple-A. Despite the RedHawks roster constantly in flux, Oklahoma City won its division championship and had a Pacific Coast League-best 82-62 record.
Houston had 16 RedHawks on its roster at the end of last season.
“Because of all the changes, this probably is the most enjoyable,” DeFrancesco said last September. “The organization is No. 1 in (minor) league winning percentage. This experience, including being in the playoffs, will benefit these players in the future.”
Two star players, George Springer and Jon Singleton, are expected to be Oklahoma City this summer.
Before last year's playoff series against Omaha, Springer said DeFrancesco has a big role in helping players reach their potential.
“Obviously, he's been successful year in and year out,” Springer said last September. “With the revolving door we had (players being promoted and demoted), it hasn't mattered because he knows how to win.”
When he returns, DeFrancesco will begin his 20th season as a minor league manager, his 11th in Triple-A.
The RedHawks open the season April 3 at Round Rock (Texas). The home opener is April 11 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark against New Orleans.
“Tony is the kind of guy who shows us what it's all about, someone who has seen just about everything,” Singleton said last September. “He's a laid back kind of guy who won't stress you out. You just have to keep at it. If you put in the work and listen, he'll make you a better player.”