Clint Hurdle’s ‘instincts’ tell him Pirates’ Josh Bell needs to sit down
There are more computers in PNC Park than hot dogs, but sometimes manager Clint Hurdle turns away from the analytics and makes a decision the old-school way.
He feels it.
That’s what happened Tuesday when Hurdle announced slumping slugger Josh Bell would not play Tuesday or Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Combined with Thursday’s off day for the team, Bell will be largely, if not exclusively, a spectator until the Pirates reach St. Louis on Friday.
“I trust my instincts, and sometimes the player’s body language sends messages,” Hurdle said. “I just felt it was time. We’ve had conversations. He’s worked on some things. There just comes a point in time where, you know what, let’s not work on some things.”
Bell was one of the hottest hitters in baseball for most of the first three months of the season. He was hitting a season-high .345 on May 29, but he has fallen to .279, his lowest point since he was hitting .270 on April 27.
He hasn’t hit a home run since July 5, an almost unbelievable fact for one of the National League’s premier power hitters through the first three months of the season.
Since that home run against the Milwaukee Brewers gave him 27 on the season, he is hitting .160 (13 for 81) with five RBIs and only three doubles. Bell only shares the National League RBI lead with Eduardo Escobar of the Arizona Diamondbacks (89) because he had such a cushion.
Before July 5, Bell was hitting .308, with 34 doubles and triples along with 84 RBIs.
Bell said he wasn’t surprised when Hurdle told him he would sit down the rest of the week.
“He let me know a little bit beforehand,” Bell said. “I said, ‘All right, I get it.’
“He allowed me to dig my way out of it and I didn’t.
“The league has done a good job of pitching around the zone and seeing if I can chase. I just want to get back to hunting my pitch and laying off the others.”
Hurdle said he chose Tuesday and Wednesday to unplug Bell partially because the Brewers’ Chase Anderson and Zach Davies were scheduled to pitch. Bell is 3 for 21 against Anderson and 2 for 18 vs.
Although Davies has since been scratched, Hurdle said that didn’t matter in his quest to restore Bell’s big bat to the lineup.
“There’s been growth on his part. There’s been maturation on his part,” Hurdle said.
“He understands the priority of this unplug is to maximize the last seven weeks. Not to just finish but finish strong. What we need to do that is best for Josh is to get him out and get him away a little bit and give him a breath.
“Slide him down where he’s not inside that fishbowl. Whether he’s trying to do too much or not, he doesn’t have to worry about it (Tuesday or Wednesday) or the next day. I have every confidence he’s going to be in a better spot mentally come Friday.”
Bell said he did not ask for time off and would prefer to be at first base, where Jose Osuna, who was 5 for 9 in the first four games of the current homestand, was stationed Tuesday night.
“I’m never the guy to go into Skip’s office and ask him to take a day,” Bell said. “I would definitely love to be out there, but at the same time I have to respect his decision. Hopefully, it pays off.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .