Terry Francona has already returned to Boston as a martyred hero during the centennial Fenway Park celebration, as a broadcaster for ESPN, as the subject and co-author of a best-seller.

On Thursday, Francona will come back to Fenway as the manager in the visitors' dugout. Yes, that will be different, Cleveland's manager said Wednesday morning during an interview on WEEI's "Dennis & Callahan Show."

"Oh sure, I mean it was probably healthy the way it worked out, having a year in between,'' Francona said. "I mean, it was probably healthy in a lot of aspects. I had probably lost some perspective.

"Eight years in Boston, I think I was pretty honest about it: It's one of the most awesome jobs you can ever have, but it's difficult and it wears on you. And sometimes when it wears on you, some of your warts start showing, maybe it be stubbornness or losing patience, and that's not healthy, either.

"So having a year to kind of reflect and just recharge and actually miss the game was really good for me.''

Francona, who won two World Series to Boston, returns not as the manager of a team of laggards, either. The Indians have been one of the surprise stories of the season thus far. Despite losing 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night, the Indians are in first place in the American League Central with a 26-18 record, a game-and-a-half ahead of the Tigers.

"I don't think people understood when this job opened up, it was a destination,'' Francona said on an appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike" show on Wednesday. "I knew right away this was the place for me.''

This is Francona's second go-round with the Indians. After being fired as the Phillies manager in 2000, Francona was hired by Mark Shapiro, now the Indians' president, to work in the team's front office for a year. It was then that he met Chris Antonetti, now the team's general manager.