Tribe notes: Mills leaves team; camp ramps up

July 5th, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have been clear that they’d support any player, coach or staff member in their decision to elect not to participate in the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And even when bench coach Brad Mills told the team he’d be leaving for reasons unrelated to the health risk, the team was ready to show that support.

Indians manager Terry Francona said on Sunday that Mills returned to his family in Texas on Saturday and will not be back this season. Although Mills is 63 and in the high-risk category for the coronavirus, the decision was not based on health. The family suffered a tragic loss during Spring Training, when Mills' grandson passed away at 18 months of age and the Indians’ bench coach did not want to spend this time away from his loved ones.

“I think it was agonizing for him to leave home, Francona said. “I think it was agonizing for him to leave here. But I know in my heart he made the right decision. If there’s ever a bittersweet moment, it was saying goodbye to him yesterday, because I care about him enough that I know where he needs to be. But also, he’s been, I don’t know if it’s my left or right hand, whichever one is better, that’s the one he’s been.”

Francona often states that Mills is much more to the team than solely a bench coach. Mills is given many different responsibilities, including scheduling every day of Spring Training each year. He came to Cleveland for a short time to help video replay coordinator Mike Barnett, who will assume Mills’ role of organizing the camp schedule each day, get settled in before leaving for Texas.

“No one person will replace what MIllsy does, and we know that,” Francona said. “And he knows that. I think it was a difficult decision for him. I almost wish it hadn’t been so difficult because I think I know in my heart where he needs to be, and that’s home right now.”

Tito’s thoughts on changing team nickname

On Friday, the club released a statement, saying that it's open to discussions about changing the team nickname, “Indians,” and is committed to determining the best path forward.

“I’ve been asked about, whether it’s our name or the Chief Wahoo, I think I would usually answer and say I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful,” Francona said. “And I still feel that way. But I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today. … Even at my age, you don’t want to be too old to learn or to realize that, maybe I’ve been ignorant of some things, and to be ashamed of it, and to try to be better. … I’m glad that we’re going to be open to listening, because I think that’s probably the most important thing right now, is being willing to listening, not necessarily just talk.”

Intrasquads start Thursday

The Tribe has been going through full-squad workouts since Friday morning and will transition into playing intrasquad games beginning on Thursday. The team isn’t expecting to play a full nine innings for its first game but will likely start in the evenings to simulate a regular exhibition game as much as possible.

“My first observation is: It may be different every day,” Francona said. “We're going to have to adjust as we go, even some of the things we have planned, we'll probably change depending on how players are feeling. If they feel like they're getting too much, if they feel like they're not getting enough, we'll have the ability to make changes, probably daily. And that's why we wanted to have the other camp running in a similar fashion, so we can pull guys over and have it disrupt the least amount possible.”

Activity ramping up in Lake County

The Indians have claimed Classic Park as their alternate workout site for the 2020 season. Of the 58 players in their 60-man player pool, the Tribe has 16 reporting to their Class A Lake County facilities. Those players had their health screenings and light workouts there over the past few days and will have their first on-field workouts on Monday.

“At some point, some of those guys will be coming over to help fill in when we play the intrasquad games, but I'd love to get out there,” Francona said. “I don't know yet if I'll be able to pull that one off. [But] yes, I would love to.”

No updates on DeShields

On Friday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti announced that outfielder had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to reporting to Summer Camp. DeShields gave Antonetti the permission to release that information. Antonetti also said that DeShields had recently taken another test to see if he would test negatively, but he is still awaiting those results.