- Associated Press - Friday, May 24, 2013

BOSTON (AP) - Terry Francona felt right at home in the visiting dugout.

Back at Fenway Park as a manager for the first time since being let go by the Boston Red Sox in 2011, he was calm and occasionally funny while wearing the cap of the Cleveland Indians.

After all, he’s back in baseball.

“Being in a dugout or clubhouse, there’s no place I’m more comfortable,” Francona said Thursday night as he sat in the opposite dugout from where he spent eight seasons as Boston’s manager. “Part of the reason I’m OK with this is I’m really proud of coming here with this hat on, this uniform.

“And that takes nothing away from the eight years I was here. It makes it easier for me to look back on some of the fonder memories and now you start new ones in another place.”

In his first season as their manager in 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Three years later, they won another. And four years after that he was let go following a September collapse that cost the Red Sox a playoff berth.

“I wish the ending would have been different,” Francona said before Cleveland’s 12-3 win in Thursday night’s opener of a four-game series.

He spent last season as an ESPN analyst then was hired after Manny Acta and interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. lost 94 games.

The Indians started and ended Thursday in first place in the AL Central, one-half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers.

“I wasn’t going to Cleveland to go to pasture,” Francona said. “Every game means the same to me here in Cleveland as it ever did here. Our goals are exactly the same _ to win the game we’re playing. But I like where I’m at and maybe for me, where I’m at in my life and baseball, this is a really good place.”

There’s less media and fan scrutiny. And there are fewer big-name players than he had in Boston where he managed Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Josh Beckett.

After Francona spoke with reporters for about 20 minutes, Ortiz walked into the dugout with a big smile and embraced his former manager.

Francona said he hadn’t had much time to think how emotional the night would be.

“Everybody kept saying, `well, are you going to be emotional?’ You don’t know,” he said. “We played a late game (Wednesday) night. We got in about 5 (a.m.), got up at 8. It’s been a busy day and, for people that know me, I really don’t think that far ahead. I know I’ve been accused of that in the games, but I just kind of take it as it comes.”

Before the game, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino visited Francona. They had parted with some bad feelings when Francona’s time as manager ended.

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