CLEVELAND — Indians manager Terry Francona has assembled his coaching staff for the 2021 season, but it won’t include his longtime friend and bench coach Brad Mills.
Francona, who missed much of this past shortened season with significant health issues, will replace Mills with DeMarlo Hale. Hale, 59, joins the Indians after spending the past two seasons with the Braves.
Hale previously worked on Francona’s staff in Boston from 2006 to 2011, serving as bench coach in 2010 and 2011. Hale has also been with Texas, Baltimore and Toronto. Mills, who opted out of the 2020 season for personal reasons, will remain with the Indians in a yet-to-be determined capacity.
“DeMarlo was one guy that I kind of thought that if I ever get back to managing again, this is a guy I’d like to have on my staff. He’s really good. He has an unbelievable way of not just communicating, but connecting with everybody,” Francona said on a call from his home in Arizona.
Francona intends to return for his ninth season with the Indians. He managed only 14 games this year due to a gastrointestinal issue requiring surgeries as well as blood-clot complications that landed him in the hospital for several days.
“I feel good. I’ve spent the last six weeks really working hard,” Francona said. “I told (Indians president of baseball operations) Chris (Antonetti) I needed to do that. I said, ‘Hey, give me until Thanksgiving just to make sure I’m OK.’ We’re coming up on Thanksgiving now and I’m doing pretty well.
“I’ve been active, lost some weight and feel like I’m putting myself in a better position to succeed physically over the course of a long season.”
With first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. filling in for Francona, the Indians clinched a wild-card spot but were eliminated by the Yankees.
Alomar, who has been a Cleveland coach for more than a decade, figured to be a candidate for a managerial job but didn’t get one.
That shocked Francona.
“I was borderline stunned that somebody didn’t try to hire him away from us this winter, because I thought he basically did a 54-game interview process and did it under the most difficult of circumstances and kind of aced it,” he said. “Now, for personal reasons, I’m glad he’s staying. I love having him on our staff.
“I guarantee you Sandy has as much or more responsibility than any first base coach in baseball, and there’s a reason, and that’s because he’s really good. … When you spend eight years with somebody you get to trust them a lot. So for personal reasons, I’m thrilled he’s back, but I am really surprised.’
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