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OKC RedHawks set to begin season without skipper

Tom Lawless will run the club while manager Tony DeFrancesco is undergoing cancer treatments.
By Mike Baldwin Modified: April 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm •  Published: April 1, 2014

When discussing manager Tony DeFrancesco undergoing cancer treatment, RedHawks coaches and players provided similar responses Tuesday afternoon at Media Day at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Tom Lawless will serve as the interim manager when the RedHakws open the season Thursday night at Round Rock.

“It was a shock to hear during spring training what happened to Tony,” Lawless said. “He started his treatment (on Monday) and will go through treatment for six or seven weeks. We’re all hoping for the best.”

Teammates and coaches are encouraged that the cancer was caught in mid-March during detailed exams at the Houston Astros‘ spring training complex.

After nearly becoming the first minor league player in decades to compile a 40-40 season, RedHawks center fielder George Springer developed an instant respect for DeFrancesco last season during a run to the Triple-A playoffs.

“Our main concern is for him, his kids, his wife, his whole family,” Springer said. “He’s our skipper. You have a different relationship with him. He’s a fantastic guy. I wish him a fast and speedy recovery.”

RedHawks hitting coach Leon Roberts said DeFrancesco is taking the necessary steps to return in late May.

“I was a little surprised even though he said he was having some problems,” Roberts said. “When he first found out, initially he was shocked. But once they told him it was Stage 1, and they’ve caught it at the start, his emotions now are very high. He’s in very good spirits.”

Lawless went through a similar pinch-hit role with the RedHawks two years ago when DeFrancesco filled in as the Astros’ interim manager for the final five weeks of the season. Under Lawless, OKC went 11-5 the final 16 games of its season.

A former Astros minor league manager at both class A levels (2009, 2010) and Double-A (2011), Lawless will put his outside-the-box job on hold. Last season Lawless served as the RedHawks’ infield coach at home games, but was a roving minor league instructor during road trips. This season, he’ll have a similar role with Double-A Corpus Christi when DeFrancesco returns.

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