Sandy Alomar Jr. stands in the way again.
The former Indians catcher, whose home run off Mariano Rivera — four outs from ending the 1997 ALDS — led to the Yankees’ only postseason series loss from 1996 to 2000, will serve as acting manager throughout Cleveland’s postseason run, with Terry Francona still recovering from surgery.
Francona, the 61-year-old skipper who led the Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles and took the Indians to the 2016 World Series, managed just 14 games this season due to blood-clot and gastrointestinal issues. Francona initially left the team on Aug. 2, and returned nine days later, but hasn’t been in the dugout since Aug. 16. He underwent surgery on Aug. 21 to relieve the blood-clotting issues.
The Indians went 28-18 under Alomar, winning seven of their final eight games of the regular season.
“I know I’ve said this multiple times, but we are incredibly grateful and thankful to have Sandy,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said. “He selflessly stepped into the role and has done an extraordinary job leading us this season and we’re looking forward to his leadership throughout the postseason.”
Francona joined the Indians in their bubble last week, leaving open the possibility he could return, but Antonetti said Sunday that Alomar would lead the team on the field the rest of the season. Francona remains on site with the team, communicating with players and staff.
“Yeah there’s a dynamic there to be sensitive to, but I think the uniting factor is that everyone cares so deeply about each other and all we care about as a group is trying to win,” Antonetti said. “So, any way we can come together to do that, we’ll try to make that happen. The collaboration continues between Sandy, the front office, the coaching staff, support staff and Tito. We’ll continue that here as we go through the playoffs.”
Alomar, a six-time All-Star, spent 11 years of his 20-year playing career in Cleveland. He has been on the Indians coaching staff since 2010 and served as acting manager for six games in 2012.
“Right now, I’m just like that mariner that is driving that boat with a captain sleeping back there in the background,” Alomar said. “It’s OK. We are here to help, and we’re glad that we are.”