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Pirates notebook: Ironman Bell gets first day off of season

| Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 9:24 p.m.
Pirates first baseman John Jaso is late to tag out the Phillies' Nick Williams in the fourth inning. Jaso started in place of Josh Bell on Tuesday.

PHILADELPHIA — Cal Ripken Jr. can breathe a sigh of relief.

First baseman Josh Bell sat out Tuesday's Pirates game against the Phillies, the first game he has missed a game this season.

Bell had been the only Pirates player to appear in each of the previous 83 games — a significant feat for a rookie going through his first grind as an everyday major leaguer.

“I feel great. I feel as if my body is there,” Bell said. “I'm just getting breathers (from starting) every once in a while, but I'm not the type to ask for them. That's just at (manager Clint Hurdle's) discretion.”

Bell started 73 of the Pirates' first 83 games (72 at first base and one as the designated hitter), and he is 2 for 7 with two walks as a pinch-hitter.

Bell is in his first go-round for a full, 162-game MLB season, which can take its toll physically and mentally. Bell averaged 125 games per year in the minors until he totaled 159 games last season between Triple-A and the majors. But that took into account many games he did not start once he joined the Pirates.

Hurdle and the Pirates adhere to strict off-day regimens in attempting to avoid burnout. For a rookie to outlast the rest of his teammates as the last man to get an off day is a testament to Bell's fortitude.

“I've seen no drop-off in energy, the preparation or anything from him,” Hurdle said. “The numbers have stayed pretty consistent — the average, the walks, the at-bats, all the things you look at. There's nothing that makes you go, ‘Wow, he's leaking oil,' or ‘This guy is running out of steam.' We'll monitor going forward, and I think (next week's All-Star) break is going to come at a very good time.”

Ripken, of course, has the MLB record for consecutive games played at 2,636.

Marte to Triple-A

After two games with High Single-A Bradenton in which he logged 10 innings and went 1 for 6, the suspended Starling Marte was bumped to Triple-A Indianapolis in time for Tuesday's game at home against Columbus and went 0 for 3.

“Now get him up to a better level of pitch competition for him,” Hurdle said.

Marte had been working out with the Bradenton Marauders after he spent much of his suspension working out at Pirate City in Bradenton. But Hurdle indicated the plan all along was to get him to the highest of minor-league level as quickly as possible.

Players are allowed to play in minor-league rehab games for the final 15 days of the term of their 80-game suspensions for violation of MLB's Joint Drug Agreement.

Marte likely will be transferred to another affiliate early next week when Indianapolis is off for the Triple-A All-Star break.

Jaso stays the course

On the roster on opening day, John Jaso's batting average sat at .000 for 16 days. It didn't get above .100 for good for 21 days. It stayed below .150 for the season's first five weeks and didn't nudge past .200 until the Pirates' 46th game.

Through it all, Hurdle said, Jaso didn't change.

“I've seen guys change their shoes, change their bats, shave their face, change their swing, change their stance,” Hurdle said.

“They change something. This is the first man in 40 years of professional baseball that I saw change nothing and just stay with it.”

Jaso's average was up to .256 heading into Tuesday's game. He hit .337 (30 for 89) with five home runs in the 46 games between May 18 (he entered that day at .160) and Tuesday.

Although Jaso went 0 for 3 on Tuesday, he had a sacrifice fly.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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