CHICAGO — Terry Francona hasn't managed against the Red Sox at Fenway Park since July 17, 1999, when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies. He returns to the third base dugout Thursday when the Indians arrive in Boston for a four-game series.
"I think it will be a special day when the series kicks off tomorrow," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I would fully expect he'd get a great welcome and a great ovation and deservedly so. That was eight incredible years that he spent [in Boston]. Looking forward to playing against him."
The Indians, who host the Tigers Wednesday night, have won 19 of 27 games since being swept by the Red Sox April 16-18 in Cleveland.
"They're playing exceptionally well," said Farrell. "They're playing with a lot of confidence, and [Francona] has a lot to do with that. They've got a very good team."
Francona was 4-4 managing the Phillies at Fenway from 1997-99. He had a 411-237 record at Fenway managing the Red Sox.
''I'm sure I'll have a lot of emotions,'' Francona told reporters in Cleveland. ''The one thing I want to remind myself — and I have — is that this game is tough enough to play and I don't want our guys having extra baggage during that series. I need to be very cognizant of that, that whatever feelings I'm having, I'll deal with 'em. It's hard enough to play this game.''
Francona was fired by the Red Sox after the 2011 season. He was around the park several times last season working for ESPN and to participate in a ceremony marking Fenway's 100th anniversary,
''I'm proud to go back there as an Indian,'' Francona said. ''I don't want that to ever get lost in the shuffle.''
The Red Sox are planning to recognize Francona at some point Thursday. He has had a somewhat rocky relationship with the owners since his firing, but is close to many people within the organization.
"He knows what people think of him," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "It'll be good to see him. But we played against them already. That part is not a big deal."
Said Farrell: "I'm sure this is a unique situation, his coming back. Knowing Tito, I think he looks at every game as being important and every series as being important. This will be a different setting I'm sure. I'm sure in a lot of ways he'll reflect on the time spent [in Boston] and hopefully all good thoughts."