Friend for Decades, Mills Provides Advice for Francona
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the coaches selected to be a part of Manager Terry Francona’s staff.
By Mike Brandyberry
Every leader has a strong network of confidants around them, people they trust and respect to help guide their decisions. For new Indians Manager Terry Francona, his long-time friend Brad Mills is more than just a sounding board and colleague.
“Mills has the ability to tell me I’m wrong and that’s important,” Francona told Cleveland.com when he named his coaching staff.
Mills and Francona have been friends, teammates and coaches together for decades. Mills owns 14 seasons of experience coaching or managing at the big league level, having previously served with Francona in Philadelphia (1997-2000) and for five playoff appearances in Boston (2004-09). Mills played collegiately (University of Arizona) and professionally (Montreal) with Francona, compiling a four-year Major League batting average of .256 (43-168) over 106 games with the Expos from 1980-83 before retiring as a player in 1986.
He is beginning his 35th year in professional baseball, reuniting with Francona after spending the last three seasons (2010-12) managing the Houston Astros. During his first season in Houston, the Astros finished 59-52 over their final 111 games and finished 1.0 game out of third place in the NL Central Division.
This season Mills will be the Tribe’s Third Base Coach in addition to Francona’s sounding board. Previously, Mills was Francona’s Bench Coach in Boston, but that role will remain filled by Sandy Alomar Jr. Alomar was Manny Acta’s Bench Coach a season ago and interim Manager when Acta was fired at the end of the 2012 season. Alomar was the only other candidate to interview for the manager’s spot with Francona.
Since Francona’s hire in October the Indians have quietly infused the roster with former Red Sox, including utility man Mike Aviles and relief pitcher Matt Albers who are certain to make the 25-man roster. Spring invitee Rich Hill was in Boston with Francona and is battling for a spot in the bullpen. Mills will provide that Boston-comfort for Francona, having been a member of both the 2004 and 2007
Regardless of Mills specific role on the Indians’ coaching staff, he will continue to be Francona’s sounding board, an important role with a spring full of decisions to be made in a franchise in transition. Mills will certainly play a key role on the basepaths with Tribe speedsters, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Drew Stubbs. Some of the Indians aggressiveness will certainly hinge on Mills and the third base coaching box.
In addition to the basepaths, Mills will certainly have his input on decisions regarding the Tribe’s fourth and fifth starters in the rotation, finding viable left-handers for the bullpen and rounding out the Indians bench.
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