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Francona changeup: He will be at Fenway

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 19, 2012
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Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona reconsidered his decision and will participate in ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the first game at Fenway Park Friday.

The Red Sox have invited every living ex-player and manager to the celebration, which will take place before an afternoon game against the Yankees. Francona declined the invitation to attend earlier this month, turning down personal appeals from owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino.

But ESPN, which now employs Francona as an analyst, reported Wednesday that Francona would attend because he felt he owed it to the fans.

Francona refused comment on the issue and the ESPN report did not quote him.

Red Sox officials said the former players and managers who do attend would be introduced to the crowd in some way.

“I think the fans will give him a good reception,’’ said outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. “It’ll be a good day for Boston sports.’’

Francona was 744-552 in eight seasons as manager of the Red Sox, winning two World Series, before he was let go after last season. He has the second-most victories in team history.

After a tenure filled with celebrations, Francona’s departure was acrimonious. The Red Sox went 7-20 in September, blowing a nine-game hold on a playoff spot by losing 16 of their final 21 games.

Francona said he felt that he lost respect in the clubhouse among some veteran players and that managing the team had become more challenging for him.

After Francona left, a Globe story detailed widespread clubhouse dysfunction and quoted team sources who painted Francona as being distracted by personal issues.

That led to Francona declining the original invitation.

Earlier this month, Francona told the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, “I’m sure they’ll have a great event and I was part of a lot of that stuff there, but I just can’t go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical.’’

Francona also said he got into an argument with Lucchino about the situation.

“I just feel like someone in the organization went out of their way to hurt me, and the more we talked, I realized we’re just not on the same wavelength,’’ he said. “They’re probably better off going forth and leaving me out of it.’’

But Francona apparently has softened his stance and will attend.

“I think he deserves a standing ovation for what he did,’’ said pitcher Daniel Bard. “He was such a big part of so many good things that happened here.’’

Francona has been around the Red Sox several times this season in the course of his duties with ESPN. He will call the game Sunday night for the network.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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