Official: Cleveland Indians bench coach Brad Mills won’t return in 2021

Bench Coach Brad Mills #00 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
Bench Coach Brad Mills #00 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

After missing the 2020 season with the Cleveland Indians, Brad Mills will transition into a new role with the club in 2021.

The Cleveland Indians bench and coaching staff will continue to look different moving into the 2021 season after it was announced that bench coach Brad Mills won’t return to the club.

After opting out of the 2020 season, Mills will continue the absence moving forward, stepping down as the Tribe’s bench coach. It’s expected that Mills will remain with the organization, transitioning into a new role in Cleveland.

Mills joined the Cleveland Indians immediately following the 2012 season, coming to Cleveland as one of Terry Francona‘s first hires to his staff. The move for Mills came at the end of tenure as the Houston Astros’ manager, a role he held for three seasons from 2010-2012, accumulating 171-274 record over his time.

With the Cleveland Indians, Brad Mills filled a few different roles over his seven seasons with the team, eight if you include the 2020 season he opted out of. Originally, Mills was assigned the to role of being the Indians’ third base coach, but was moved to bench coach prior to the start of the 2014 season. This move came with Sandy Alomar Jr. moving from bench coach to first base coach that season.

The dynamic duo of Francona and Mills as manager and bench coach stretched far beyond their time together in Cleveland. While with the Boston Red Sox, Francona had Mills on his staff as the bench coach from 2004 to 2009. Even before that, Mills was Francona’s first base coach during his tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000. He also filled in as manager for Francona during the 2017 All-Star game when Francona missed time due to a health issue.

With Brad Mills exiting the role of bench coach, the Indians coaching staff could potentially become a game of musical chairs. While no plan for the role has been announced with the news of Mills being recent, there will of course be speculation in the coming days for who could fill that void.

One of the top candidates for the position could be Sandy Alomar Jr. Despite being better positioned as the team’s first base coach, a role he has done exceedingly well in, Alomar might be Francona’s first choice for bench coach.

As previously mentioned, Alomar held the role with the Tribe in 2012 under Manny Acta before staying on under Francona in the same role until 2014 when he moved back to first base with Mills moving into the bench coach role.

While Alomar is great at first base, his role during the 2020 season could make the case for him to return to the bench coach role. With Mills opting out and Francona stepping away for health reasons, it was Alomar that stepped up and took over the managerial roles for the Cleveland Indians during the absence. Alomar impressed at times and held down the fort, which could increase the possibility of him being moved into the new role.

If not Alomar, then Francona could tap into his extensive coaching tree that has produced countless World Series matchups, including the 2020 World Series between Kevin Cash‘s Tampa Bay Rays and Dave Roberts‘ Los Angeles Dodgers.

One name from Francona’s tree that could emerge is one that Indians’ fans should be familiar with, Mickey Callaway. Currently the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels, Callaway could explore a reunion with the Indians after serving as the pitching coach in Cleveland from 2013-17 before leaving for the managerial position with the New York Mets for two seasons.

If Callaway has aspirations have becoming a manager again, then taking the second-in-command role under Francona can’t hurt. He’s been impressive as a pitching coach, so prying him away from that role could be a challenge.

Another candidate that might be a bit surprising is Alex Cora. After being suspended during the 2020 season, Cora could return as the Red Sox’s manager, but if not then perhaps Francona will give him a call. Cora played for the Cleveland Indians in 2005 before moving to Boston to play under Francona.

In his first season as a manager, being the 2018 season with Boston, Cora led the Red Sox to a World Series title, but regressed in 2019, barely breaking .500. Without Cora in 2020, Boston floundered to one of the worst records in baseball.

Given Francona’s coaching tree and success in finding talent for the staff, the Cleveland Indians will be in good hands. However, it will still be difficult to lose someone like Brad Mills from the dugout.