Pirates' Bell called up, gets hit on 1st swing
The Pirates called up Josh Bell on Friday, but it is expected to be a short stay for one of the franchise's top prospects.
To clear a roster spot for Bell, Baseball America's No. 38 overall prospect prior to the season, the Pirates optioned another top prospect, right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow, to Triple-A.
“We got him up to be a bat off the bench for a three-game series (vs. the Chicago Cubs) ... they only have one left-handed reliever,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We don't need a pitcher, we have the spot. Bring the bat up. Try to help out off the bench.”
Bell singled off Cubs ace Jake Arrieta as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and came around to score during the Pirates' four-run rally. Bell's stay in the majors — expected to last only the weekend — could be extended after outfielder Gregory Polanco was forced to leave Friday night's game with a sore hamstring.
Bell was able to share the news of his promotion with his parents Thursday night as they were visiting him in Indianapolis.
“It was an awesome experience last night, getting the news and being able to share it,” Bell said. “I was able to go down to the family waiting room and kind of hug it out with my mom and dad after the game. ... My mom was filled with the most emotion, hopping up and down. My dad was real excited and we were able to reminisce on the good times and the bad times.”
Despite Bell's outstanding year at Triple-A, the Pirates do not have an immediate void for him to fill. The Pirates signed John Jaso to a two-year, $8 million deal in the offseason to play first base, and the club also has David Freese to play either corner infield position.
But Bell is the future at first, and his switch-hitting ability means the Pirates eventually will end their platoon situation at first base.
Bell was batting .324 with 13 home runs at Triple-A Indianapolis. He hit only seven home runs last season.
Bell has improved against left-handed pitching, which was a weakness last year. He has posted a .922 OPS versus lefties and a .951 OPS against righties this season. Last season, hitting from the right-hand side was an issue for Bell when he posted a .600 OPS against lefties.
“He likes being at the plate and it's a big situation, and you can't teach that,” Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. “Obviously, he's had some big RBIs for us this year. His power numbers are up. He's just much more confident at the plate.”
Bell has shown improved power this year but always has had a strong batting eye as evidenced with his .407 on-base percentage. He also is slugging .535.
Bell was switched from outfield to first base last year. His defense at first is still a work in progress, but he has made significant improvement from last season.
“Coming from the outfield to first base and never playing the infield, that's a big adjustment, and I think he's handled it very well,” Treanor said. “He wants to be good there, and his work ethic is really bar none. “Even this week, we have all the infielders out when we're home, and we did a couple of extra sessions with him and he wants it. He wants to keep getting better than he has and he's improved.”
Bell signed for a $5 million bonus as a second-round pick in 2011 during the over-slotting era.