CLEVELAND — A smile crept across first-round pick Beau Mills’ face as he was asked two questions at the same time Friday in the Indians dugout.
He didn’t bother to ask the reporters to repeat the questions because it was obvious he’d been asked them both many times before.
“I quit playing football after my junior year (in high school) and, yeah, everybody tells me I look like Tom Brady,” Mills said.
It was the same straight-forward attitude that allowed the Indians to sign the 13th overall pick in the 2007 first-year player draft just eight days after selecting him. Mills, a third baseman from the NAIA’s Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), leaves today to begin work with Mahoning Valley.
“I told all the scouts that talked to me from every organization, ‘I want to play baseball,’” Mills said. “My goal is not to make more money in the draft, it’s to make more money in the big leagues. The only way to get there is to play baseball.”
Mills, 20, hit .458 (110-for-240) with 100 runs, 22 doubles, one triple, 38 home runs and 123 RBIs in 62 games during his junior season at Lewis-Clark. He set an NAIA record for home runs and helped Lewis-Clark defend its NAIA national championship. He was named the NAIA player of the year and the NAIA World Series MVP.
“His numbers are pretty reflective of what kind of hitter he is,” said John Mirabelli, the Indians’ head of scouting operations. “Right now, I think his power is a little bit ahead of his hitting ability. I think he has a couple things that he can tighten up in terms of patience and using the whole field, he’s physical enough to mishit the ball and still hit it out.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Mills — who played quarterback for three years at Golden West High in Visalia, Calif., and does look remarkably like the New England Patriots quarterback — will begin his career as a first baseman, a position he’s never played in his career, at Mahoning Valley, then move to the Indians’ Single-A club, the Lake County Captains, near the end of June.
“Baseball comes naturally to me, so I don’t see moving to first as being a problem,” Mills said. “I think I’ll pick it up quicker than most people expect.”
Mills didn’t have the usual look of awe on his face as he surveyed Jacobs Field, mainly because he’s the son of Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills and has been around major league players and ballparks his whole life. He spent the day of the draft with his father and then stuck around to watch Boston’s Curt Schilling throw a one-hitter against the Oakland Athletics.
Injured right-hander Jake Westbrook will make at least one more rehab start in the minor leagues before returning to the Indians. Westbrook has made three rehab starts so far — one each in Buffalo, Akron and Lake County — and has taken the loss in all three.
“We talked about it at length (Thursday) before the game even started and we’re going to go ahead and give Jake another rehab start,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We just feel like he needs to build himself up a little more so when he comes here he can compete much deeper in the ballgame.”
Although Wedge had made the decision prior to Friday, he apparently hadn’t told Westbrook that he wouldn’t be returning this week.
“I got a bullpen (session) today and that’s all I know,” Westbrook said. “The last (rehab start) was pretty good. I came in, was locating my pitches pretty good — I felt strong.”
Jason Stanford, who picked up the win in Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Florida Marlins, will get at least one more start for the Indians.
Return of the Wick
The weekend series with the Atlanta Braves marks the first return of former Tribe closer Bob Wickman, who was traded by the Indians to Atlanta on July 20 last year for catcher Maximiliano Ramirez.
Wickman finished last season with 18 saves and a 1.04 ERA in 28 appearances for Atlanta. He has 11 saves in 14 opportunities this season.
“Well, we just saw Aaron Boone across the diamond (with Florida) and you get to a point in this game where you get used to seeing people on the other side,” Wedge said. “You see other faces over there looking at people we have. We went to Boston and you see them looking at Trot (Nixon).”
What Wedge wasn’t used to seeing was his former third baseman get ejected from the Tribe’s second game with the Marlins for arguing with the umpire after a close play at first base.
“Yeah, I was as surprised as anybody,” Wedge said. “He got a little emotional out there.”
Buffalo outfielder Ben Francisco is leading the International League in hitting with a .336 average and is tied for third with 14 stolen bases. Third baseman Andy Marte, named the IL batter of the week last week, has hit six homers and 17 RBIs since returning to the Triple-A Bisons on May 29.
l The Akron Aeros’ (Double-A) offense is tied for the Eastern League lead in scoring with 313 runs and tied for second in hitting with a .273 average.
l The Kinston Indians (High-A) have won their last seven games and 15 of their last 16. The Kinston hitters are leading the Carolina League in scoring (368 runs), hitting (.275), home runs (77) and walks (275), while the pitching staff leads the league with a 3.15 ERA. Kinston has already secured its berth in the playoffs for a record seventh straight season.
l Five members of the Lake County Captains (Single-A) have been selected to the South Atlantic League All-Star game. First baseman Matt Whitney and catcher Matt McBride have been named starters, while right-handed pitchers Josh Tomlin and Hector Rondon were picked as reserves. Infielder Jared Goedert was also picked to be a starter, but will not attend the June 19 game because he was promoted to Kinston.
The Indians are already thinking about their potential postseason plans and have announced a second-half stretch run ticket plan that will allow fans to purchase seats for the final 36 home games of the season and guarantee them playoff priority should the Tribe make the postseason.
The plan begins at $252 for upper outfield seats and features series against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.
l Today the Indians will go with right-hander Paul Byrd (6-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz (7-3, 2.83) in a 3:55 p.m. start. The start will be Smoltz’s first appearance at Jacobs Field since the 1995 World Series.
l The Indians are enjoying their 47th day in first place this season. On June 1 they established their largest lead (41/2 games) and best record (15 games over .500 at
34-19) of the year. They are eight games better than at this point last season.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com.