Pirates OF prospect Bell eager to impress in Double-A
ALTOONA — Other than the brisk-for-July evening, if Josh Bell needed a reminder that he wasn't in Florida anymore, it was the roller coaster looming behind him.
Bell had seen photos of the white, wooden structure called the Skyliner just beyond the right-field wall at Peoples Natural Gas Field, the Altoona Curve's ballpark. He believed it to be inactive, an outdated relic.
“It was cool to hear the people screaming on it during (batting practice),” the Curve's new right fielder said before his first game since being promoted to Double-A. “It felt different, but it's going to be fun.”
Bell, who shredded pitching in the High-A Florida State League, is unlikely to be distracted by amusement park screams or anything else.
The scouting reports note he is uncommonly poised and mature for a 21-year-old.
“He had a good upbringing,” said Gary Green, the Pirates' organizational defensive coordinator.
Green has watched Bell since he signed out of high school in 2011 as the most expensive ($5 million) second-round draft pick ever.
“He has a good head on his shoulders, and he keeps things in perspective,” Green said.
Batting third and wearing No. 35, Bell flied out to deep center, walked twice, struck out and scored a run in an 8-6 loss to Bowie. In his first at-bat, Bell, a switch-hitter, pulled a hanging slider pitch over the concession stand roof in left field, but it was foul.
Bell declared his first Double-A experience “awesome.”
“It was a lot of fun,” he said.”It was a different experience, but I felt I put myself in good positions to hit. I just couldn't really get anything to fall tonight.
“As a kid you know what Double-A and Triple-A are, and it's just one of my dreams coming true, a Double-A guy. And I'm excited to be so close to Pittsburgh, as well.”
Green and Bell chatted around the batting cage before the game. Green said the gist of what he told Bell was simple: “Do what you did (in Florida). Don't try to change anything.”
What Bell did in Florida was hit .335 with nine homers, 53 RBIs and an .886 OPS. He played in the All-Star Futures Game in Minneapolis just before his promotion.
Bell, who surmounted a 2012 knee injury he suffered 15 games into his pro career, said he was pleased with how he played with Bradenton but hardly satisfied.
“I had my failures,” he said. “I didn't hit a thousand.”
Bell reunited with former Bradenton teammates, including pitcher Tom Harlan, who joined Altoona earlier this month. They are roommates.
“He's fun to watch,” Harlan said.
Harlan added that he expects Bell, a switch-hitter listed at 6-foot-2, 233 pounds, to exhibit more power at this level even though his new ballpark favors pitchers slightly.
Bell's stay with the Curve might prove to be another Pirates rite of passage. Among others, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, who form the Pirates' dynamic outfield, previously came this way.
Polanco, despite recent rookie struggles, is considered to be the real deal in right field, which also is Bell's position. This has led to speculation about Bell's future. Will he eventually move to first base? Might he be traded?
Bell is aware of the chatter but tries to ignore it. Otherwise, “I might get a little bit crazy,” he said. “You've got to be careful what you look at and what comes into your mind because it clutters you for the game.
Bell has been queried about first base “by reporters and stuff like that,” he said, “but I've been the right fielder since I got drafted, and I'm still playing right field.
“I just want to be one of the guys in the lineup that pitchers fear and batters fear when I'm in the outfield.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.