CLEVELAND (AP) — Guardians manager Terry Francona has missed so much time over the past two seasons that even a four-game absence has been difficult.

“That was compulsory retirement,” he said. “It wasn’t very funny.”

Francona and two of his coaches have cleared health and safety logs and have returned to the team after missing part of the past week after testing positive for COVID-19.

Francona was back for Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds along with bench coach DeMarlo Hale and assistant coach Justin Toole. The trio tested positive for coronavirus last week while the Guardians were in Chicago and returned to Ohio by bus while the team continued their trip to Minnesota.

However, Francona’s return was delayed another day as the Reds and Guardians were postponed by rain. The series finale will be made up for on Thursday with an afternoon matinee.

The Guardians have been dealing with two separate outbreaks in recent weeks and the recent spate of cases has raised the awareness of the team.

“Up to this point we feel pretty lucky,” said Francona. “It was starting to catch on. Once it reaches the clubhouse, everyone breathes in on each other. we live together

“But I’ll say this, it’s not like it’s over and you can drop your vigilance. We have to dress up inside just to be able to pay attention. Because once it happens, it’s kind of too late.”

First baseman Josh Naylor remains the only Guardians player currently sidelined with the virus. However, Naylor is about to return and has been back at the clubhouse. Francona said he could be in the lineup as early as Friday when the Guardians open a three-game series at home against Detroit.

Francona, 63, in his 10th season with Cleveland, was treating some symptoms over the weekend but has been feeling better in recent days. He missed most of the last two seasons to deal with some serious health issues.

With Francona’s return, pitching coach Carl Willis returns to his normal duties after serving as acting manager.

Sandy Alomar and Mike Sarbaugh, the team’s respective first and third base coaches, are still sidelined after testing positive.

Hitting coach Chris Valaika returned to the Guardians on Tuesday after missing three games.

The Guardians considered bringing in other coaches from the minors, but Francona said the team opted to move healthy members of their staff into other roles to give the players some continuity.

“The biggest thing about Carl was that we’re trying to keep a little bit of normality,” he said. “When you’re missing seven guys, it’s pretty tough. First of all, we know that when Carl speaks, the players will respect it. We just wanted the games to be played the way they were meant to be played.”


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