CLEVELAND: Terry Francona knows how to create a vivid image when he makes a point.
The Indians’ new manager had been on the job less than a day when he and General Manager Chris Antonetti jetted to Goodyear, Ariz., for three days of organizational meetings that will help determine which direction the team goes. Inasmuch as the two men have been friends for more than a decade, Antonetti invited Francona to stay at his Arizona residence.
“I was on the job for one day, but I could walk around the house in my underwear,” Francona said.
Francona has made it clear repeatedly that the No. 1 reason he became the Tribe’s skipper is because of his close relationship with Antonetti and club President Mark Shapiro.
During a gathering of media on Monday, he also mentioned that it’s more fulfilling to succeed with a franchise that has certain built-in obstacles, like the Indians, rather than direct the fortunes of a big-market, big-payroll team.
Francona will continue to be an analyst for ESPN through the World Series, which is putting a squeeze on his time, but the network has been generous in giving him the chance to research his new roster of players and learn as much as he can about the state of the franchise.
The organizational meetings in Arizona were a first step in the process.
“We have to figure out where we are and how to move forward,” Francona said. “That’s not easy. In the three days we were down there, a lot of opinions were flying around, and that was healthy. I feel I have a lot clearer picture of a lot more guys than I did.”
However, changes are forthcoming, so Francona isn’t about to make predictions.
“Right now we’re not going to win many games,” he said. “We don’t have a left fielder, first baseman or a DH. But that’s going to change.”
Francona also doesn’t have a coaching staff, but he has done extensive interviewing over the phone, and face-to-face interviews were taking place Monday and today.
It is believed that Brad Mills, the father of former Tribe No. 1 draft pick Beau Mills, either has been hired or is close to being hired. Mills was on Francona’s staff with the Red Sox but left to manage the Houston Astros, who fired him during the 2012 season.
Sandy Alomar has been asked to stay on, but he isn’t likely to pass up a chance to manage, if he is given the opportunity.
“It’s safe to say that we first looked at coaches internally — guys on the major-league staff and people in the player development system — and some guys are closer [to being hired] than others.
“A coach does not have to have major-league experience, but we hope he will grow into the job.”
The manager often has the most input into the hiring of coaches, since he has to direct the staff, but it is still a collaborative effort.
Francona also expects to be involved in player personnel decisions, including free-agent signings and trades. But that can get a little tricky, because those kinds of decisions fall directly to the general manager. However, that’s where the relationship between Francona and Antonetti can blur lines of authority.
“Under normal circumstances, there’s a certain feeling-out process when a new manager comes in, but we hit the ground running,” Francona said. “I’ve known Chris and Mark for a long time. I’m afforded an opinion, and that’s nice. But I have no ambition to be a general manager, and I respect the chain of command.”
So Francona expects to be heard, but he knows he won’t have the final say.
“I’ve felt comfortable stating my opinion, and that’s after a couple of weeks,” he said. “I think a GM and Chris, specifically, would want a manager with strong opinions as long as he has reasons.”
Longtime Indians coach and minor-league staffer Johnny Goryl, currently the Tribe’s adviser to player development, has been named the recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award, which recognizes individuals who have shown outstanding skill in mentoring young players.
Goryl has spent 62 years in professional baseball, including 31 with the Tribe. In addition to spending six years as a big-league player, Goryl was a major-league coach with the Minnesota Twins and managed the Twins before coming to the Indians as a coach.
A formal presentation of the award will be made at the winter meetings Dec. 6 in Nashville, Tenn.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.