Though the Red Sox will face former manager Terry Francona for the first time Tuesday when they open a three-game series against the Indians, the reunion is unlikely to be at the forefront of anyone's mind.
Instead, the Red Sox will take the field in Cleveland with heavy hearts one day after three people were killed and over 100 more were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. The explosions occurred at the marathon's finish line, approximately one mile away from Fenway Park, where the Red Sox had just completed a three-game sweep of the Rays less than an hour earlier.
At the time of the blasts, the Red Sox were preparing to travel to Cleveland, where the flag will be flown at half-staff and there will be a moment of silence prior to Tuesday's series opener. While the NHL's Boston Bruins and NBA's Boston Celtics had their home games canceled on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is eager to take the field in the wake of Monday's tragedy.
"I can't wait to put on my jersey today... I get to play for the strongest city out there. #BostonStrong," Middlebrooks tweeted Tuesday morning.
In what seems like an afterthought now, Middlebrooks and his teammates will square off against one of the top managers to don a Red Sox uniform. At least one person -- Indians ace Justin Masterson -- thinks Francona is the best skipper in franchise history.
"You can make a case for that," said Masterson, who also pitched for Francona in Boston from 2008-09. "The numbers certainly make a case for it."
For the first time since his exodus from Beantown, Francona will face the franchise with which he won 744 games, the second-highest total for a Boston skipper.
Jackie Robinson Day will also be celebrated during Tuesday's series opener. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
As for Francona, he ended the club's 86-year World Series hex when he steered the Sox to the 2004 crown. He tacked on another Fall Classic triumph in 2007. His Red Sox teams won no fewer than 86 games in any of his eight seasons at the helm.
His reign in Boston, however, ended a bit unceremoniously. After a 7-20 September stretch derailed the team's 2011 campaign, the club parted ways with its manager. Francona spent a year as an analyst for ESPN before assuming Cleveland's managerial position.
"It'll probably be interesting, but it's a bit different team than when he was there," Masterson said about the upcoming series at Progressive Field. "But I think it will be something for the team coming here. The greater impact will be when we go to Fenway Park with the fans and the affection that they'll have for him. He did such great things there. I think he's proud of working there and being a part of the organization."
The Indians travel to Boston for a four-game set May 23-26. They'll host the Red Sox, now led by manager John Farrell, from Tuesday to Thursday. With the Indians' off-day on Monday, the team will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday. All players on both teams will don Robinson's retired No. 42 and the Indians -- who had the first African-American player in American League history in Larry Doby -- will honor the man who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 with several tributes, including one with the organization's diverse business partners.
Francona had hoped his players would focus on the task at hand entering Tuesday's series opener, not his past allegiances. Though given Monday's devastating events in Boston, focusing on either will likely be a difficult order for either team.
"To be honest, I'm an Indian," Francona had said prior to the bombings. "I'm aware of the questions and everything, and I have a lot of great memories, but I don't think it's fair to the players. This game is hard enough to play. They don't need to be worrying about me having nostalgia week. They just need to try to beat them."
Yet with the entire country mourning Monday's attack, the focus entering Tuesday's game for Boston is no longer on Francona sitting in the opposite dugout or what he did during his time managing the Red Sox.
"Wearing a Boston uniform has new meaning for me today," tweeted Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino. "Honored and proud to represent a city of heroes!"
Red Sox: Doubront to take ball in Cleveland
Southpaw Felix Doubront is slated to toe the rubber on Tuesday, his first start since April 5. On that date, he tossed five innings against Toronto, to whom he allowed three runs on nine hits. He didn't factor into the decision in a 6-4 win.
In two career starts against the Indians, Doubront has compiled a 1-1 record and 4.35 ERA.
Indians: Jimenez to pitch in series opener
After a quality start in his first outing of the season, Ubaldo Jimenez reverted to his 2012 form last Monday, when he surrendered seven runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Yankees. After a pair of rainouts, Francona rearranged his rotation and pushed Jimenez back until Tuesday, when he'll take the hill against the Red Sox. Francona isn't ready to worry about the right-hander, though.
"[We'll be] a lot more patient than one bad start," Francona said. "That would be a horrible mistake on our part."
Jimenez was disappointed about his most recent effort.
"A little bit, definitely," Jimenez said. "Because you want to keep it going. I had a good start in Toronto, but it's early in the season. I have to worry about my next game. I have to forget about this one."
• The Indians hope to have both catcher Carlos Santana and second baseman Jason Kipnis back in the starting lineup on Tuesday. Santana pinch-hit in Sunday's game, his first action since suffering a bruised thumb last Monday. Kipnis has been sidelined all weekend with left elbow soreness.
• The Red Sox claimed five of eight meetings with the Indians last season, outscoring Cleveland, 48-28.
• On Sunday, Indians center fielder Michael Bourn became the second player in franchise history to lead off a game at Progressive Field with a home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Lawton first accomplished the feat in 2004.
Zack Meisel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.