By George Campbell
Astros skipper Brad Mills faced his former team, the Boston Red Sox, for the first of three scheduled 2011 spring training games on Tuesday. Even though his team lost 3-2, he was pleased with the effort his guys put forth in the game.
“I think we’ve played very well this year. I think you saw that today,” Mills said after the game.
It was a split-squad game, with the remainder of the team back in Kissimmee beating the Mets 5-4. Mills could have stayed with the other team at their home park, but he enjoys the opportunity to play against his former team. He spent 2004-2009 as Terry Francona’s bench coach, helping the team win two World Series during that time.
“It’s always fun seeing those guys. It’s a great group of guys, and of course I have a fondness for Terry and everybody over there as well, including the players and coaching staff. I spent six great years over there.”
He and Francona have ties going back to college, when the two were teammates on the University of Arizona team, and then were with the Montreal Expos together.
He left the Red Sox after the 2009 season to take the manager’s position for the Astros. He has a very positive attitude entering his second year on the job.
“I’m pretty excited because of the players we’ve got,” Mills explained. “We’ve got a great group of guys. They’ve done a great job this spring and they did a good job last year, and we’ll continue to build. I’m pretty excited about it.”
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There was a lot to learn as a first-year manager.
“It was the experience of going through it, everything, everything is a process,” he continued. “Gaining familiarity with the coaching staff and the players going into the second year is a plus.”
The Astros finished fourth in the National League Central Division in his first year with the team. He is hoping the second year with the team will produce an even better year in 2011.
“The effort we have been putting out on the field has been extremely good this year. We are continuing with that because we have a great group of guys with a lot of talent, and if they are able to keep that going, we’ll have a good year.”