DeMarlo Hale named Tribe's bench coach

Francona 'extremely excited' to return in '21, 'glad' Alomar is back

November 23rd, 2020

CLEVELAND -- It’s going to be strange for Indians manager Terry Francona not to have his right-hand man in 2021, but the skipper will at least have a familiar face on his bench next season.

After Tribe bench coach Brad Mills, one of Francona's closest friends, decided against returning in his regular role next year, the Indians announced on Monday afternoon that DeMarlo Hale will serve as the bench coach in 2021. Hale spent the past two seasons as a special assistant to player development with the Braves, overseeing outfield and baserunning instruction.

Hale and Francona have a history, dating back to Francona’s time in Boston nearly 15 years ago. From 2006-11, Hale was on Francona’s staff with the Red Sox, including two seasons as his bench coach. Hale worked with the Orioles in '12 and served as the Blue Jays' bench coach from '13-18. This upcoming season will mark his 18th as a Major League coach.

“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,” Francona said. “He's really good. He has an unbelievable way of not just communicating but connecting with everybody. And I love that about him.”

Mills decided against returning as the Tribe’s bench coach next year after opting out of the 2020 season to be with his family following the death of his grandson during Spring Training. The plan is to have Mills remain involved in the Indians organization, but he and the club have not determined his role yet.

“He just needs to be home,” Francona said. “You guys understand the reasons. I still think it was a hard decision for him -- or I shouldn't say that, because I don't think it was a hard decision, but I think it was difficult, because he loves baseball. But I think he knew where he needed to be. And I respect that and I would never try to talk him out of that, because I know how important being home for him is right now and to his family.”

The rest of the coaching staff will remain the same. Francona will be back at the helm with Sandy Alomar Jr. as first-base coach and Mike Sarbaugh at third. Though Ty Van Burkleo also opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, he will return as the Tribe’s hitting coach next year.

After Alomar acted as the Indians' temporary manager for the majority of the 2020 season, his return to the Tribe’s staff may have been the biggest surprise this offseason.

“I want to be careful how I say this, because I don't want it to come across as I want Sandy to leave,” Francona said. “But 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. Now, for personal reasons, I'm glad he's staying. I love having him on our staff. I love the fact that his ego is so little that he loves being the first-base coach and he understands the impact he can have on our team over there.”

Going forward, Francona will be ready to manage again. He said he’s in much better health than he was in August, when he was at the Cleveland Clinic battling through blood clots. He took six weeks after the season ended to focus on himself, as he's worked out, lost weight and put himself in a position to be ready to be back in the dugout in 2021.

“I think the timing is probably good,” Francona said. “I think it gives me time to get stronger and get ready. I will be extremely excited, I guarantee you.”