CLEVELAND — Most draft experts had the Indians considering taking Beau Mills with their first-round (13th overall) draft choice Thursday if the infielder, who was projected to go within the top 10, fell that far.
He did and they did.
Though there was strong speculation the Indians would take a high school pitcher with their top pick, Cleveland tabbed Mills, a 20-year-old first baseman/third baseman out of Lewis-Clark State in Idaho. He is the son of Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills.
“We liked him for his offensive upside,” said Indians assistant general manager John Mirabelli, who handles the amateur draft as the head of the organization’s scouting department. “He’s a left-handed power hitter with the chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat. Those are tough to find.
“We had some good fortune for him to get to 13.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Mills spent two years at Fresno State, where he was the WAC freshman of the year but became academically ineligible at the end of his sophomore season. He transferred to Lewis-Clark the following year.
He put up staggering numbers at the NAIA school during his junior season this year, batting .458 with 38 home runs and 123 RBIs in 62 games. He was named the NAIA player of the year, hitting three homers and driving in eight runs in the NAIA championship game.
Baseball America ranked Mills as the fifth-best position player in the draft and the
Mills was Cleveland’s only pick in the first four rounds after the team lost its second- and third-round picks as compensation for signing free agents Roberto Hernandez and David Dellucci in the offseason.
Mills’ agent is Alan Hendricks, who also represents Roger Clemens, but Mirabelli isn’t predicting any problems signing Mills.
“I’m not worried about signability,” said Mirabelli, who indicated that Mills would begin his professional career as a first baseman at Class A Mahoning Valley. “We know this kid inside and out. I’m relatively as certain as I can be that this will be a quick process.”
Trot Nixon’s struggles have been beneficial to outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who has started three times since being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo on May 31.
Gutierrez has made the most of the opportunity, hitting home runs in two of Cleveland’s last three games, including a solo shot Tuesday for the game’s only run. He hit his second homer in the 8-3 victory Thursday.
“He’s put up good at-bats, he’s seeing the ball and he’s running around all over in right field,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge.
Nixon is hitting just .171 (6-for-35) over his last 10 games to lower his average from .291 to .265.
In the field
Wedge confirmed Thursday that Travis Hafner would start at first base in the first two games of the team’s first interleague road series, which begins tonight in Cincinnati.
The Reds are throwing right-handers in all three games of the series, which means Cleveland can get both the left-handed-hitting Hafner and switch-hitting Victor Martinez in the lineup with Ryan Garko sitting.
Hafner has started four times at first base this season and has not made an error.
Cliff Lee (2-3, 6.35) opens the three-game set at the Great American Ball Park, opposing right-hander Homer Bailey, a prized prospect who will be making his big league debut.
Jeremy Sowers (1-6, 6.63) and C.C. Sabathia (9-1, 3.40) are the scheduled starters Saturday (7:10) and Sunday (1:15), while the Reds counter with Aaron Harang (6-2, 4.24) and Cha Seung Baek (3-2, 4.91).
Cleveland leads the all-time series with their intrastate rivals 28-20.
Triple-A Buffalo outfielder Ben Francisco is on a tear, entering Thursday with a .386 (17-for-44) average, three homers, seven runs and seven RBIs over his last 10 games. He was hitting .354 with six homers and 30 RBIs in 49 games through Wednesday.
l Single-A Lake County is sending five players — pitchers Josh Tomlin and Hector Rondon, infielders Matt Whitney and Jared Goedert and catcher Matt McBride — to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in Rome, Ga., on June 19. Though he has been promoted to Class A Kinston, Goedert still leads the SAL in homers (16) and RBIs (51) and ranks second with a .364 batting average in 46 games for the Captains.
The Indians are chasing the best home record in club history, set in 1954 by an American League championship team that went 59-18 at home (.766). The Indians are 21-7 at home this season, a winning percentage of .750.
l Thursday’s starter Fausto Carmona, Paul Byrd and Sabathia have combined to post a 22-4 record in 34 starts, winning 16 of their last 17 decisions.
l Jake Westbrook (on the disabled list with a strained abdominal) will make his second rehab appearance today, starting for Double-A Akron against Portland at Canal Park.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.