OKLAHOMA CITY - RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco has been diagnosed with cancer and will miss the start of the 2014 season, the Houston Astros and Oklahoma City RedHawks announced today.
While taking an annual physical at the beginning of spring training, DeFrancesco discussed symptoms he was experiencing with Astros medical personnel. He was then referred to a specialist and eventually diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately the cancer was detected early, and doctors are optimistic DeFrancesco will make a full recovery.
"We were obviously very saddened to hear the news about Tony, and our thoughts are with him and his family during this tough time," RedHawks President/General Manager Michael Byrnes said. "Tony has been a great leader and a wonderful representative for the team on and off the field. If he approaches this hurdle the same way he approaches his job, I'm confident he will be able to overcome it and rejoin the team whenever he feels he's ready."
The 50-year-old DeFrancesco will receive treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for approximately five to six weeks. He hopes to join the RedHawks in mid-May.
"I am overwhelmed and truly grateful by the support of family, friends, and everyone associated with the Houston Astros organization," DeFrancesco said. "I am very confident in my medical team at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I am optimistic for 100% recovery. My wife, Adriene, and I would like to thank everyone for their phone calls and prayers."
"Tony has handled this situation admirably," said Astros Player Development Director Quinton McCracken. "Tony has done a tremendous job with our players and is a credit to our organization. We know he'll tackle this and we look forward to his return to OKC. "
DeFrancesco has served as RedHawks manager since 2011 and has led the team to a 228-202 during his time in Oklahoma City. Last season he guided the RedHawks to a Pacific Coast League leading 82-62 record and an American Southern Division title.
2014 will be DeFrancesco's 20th season as a minor league manger, and throughout his career he has amassed 1,317 wins. In 10 seasons in the Pacific Coast League, DeFrancesco has captured seven division titles and three league championships.
He served as Astros interim manager for the final 41 games of 2012. The team went 16-25 overall but had a strong finish, going 15-15 during the last month of the season.
Astros minor league instructor Tom Lawless will serve as interim manager during DeFrancesco's absence. Last season Lawless was an infield coach for the RedHawks and served as a roving infield instructor throughout the Astros minor league system. He was assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi to serve in a similar capacity for 2014 and will move that position once DeFrancesco returns.
Lawless managed the RedHawks for the final 16 games of 2012 after DeFrancesco was promoted to Houston, and the RedHawks went 11-5 under Lawless' guidance. He has been a coach in the Astros minor league system since 2009 and managed teams at Low-A Lexington (2009), High-A Lancaster (2010), and Double-A Corpus Christi (2011).
The RedHawks open the 2014 season Thursday, April 3 in Round Rock and begin their home slate on Friday, April 11 against New Orleans. For ticket packages or to reserve a group outing, call (405) 218-1000 or visit okcredhawks.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.