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Pirates notebook: Bell still a work in progress on defense

| Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, 3:03 p.m.
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell takes the field with Andrew Kostelnik, 13, of Belle Vernon at the start of a game against the Marlins on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016 during 'Kid's Day' at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell takes the field with Andrew Kostelnik, 13, of Belle Vernon at the start of a game against the Marlins on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016 during 'Kid's Day' at PNC Park.
Josh Bell went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly in his first major league start against the Marlins Sunday at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Josh Bell went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly in his first major league start against the Marlins Sunday at PNC Park.

Josh Bell has progressed through the Pirates farm system over the past five years. On Sunday against the Marlins, he reached the No. 6 spot in the Pirates lineup.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged that despite Bell's progress, the 24-year-old first baseman is still a work in progress on defense.

“In fact, the day before we called him up, he made two errors,” Hurdle said. “(John) Jaso is a better defensive first baseman than Josh is right now. It's just a matter of fact. When he's over there and starting, we'll look for opportunities for him to get the at-bats, make the plays that he can make, do the job that he can do and defend for him probably later as we've done in the past.”

Bell, who made the transition from the outfield to first base less than two years ago, eclipsed 2,000 innings at first base between Arizona Fall League and the minor leagues earlier this month. In that span, as he learned the nuances of a position he didn't play as an amateur, he committed 30 errors.

Saturday brought Bell's first taste of defense in the major leagues, as Bell pinch-hit for Jaso in the bottom of the seventh and stayed in the field for the eighth and ninth innings.

“This is the final question for guys all over the place on everything, to find your rhythm and your rhyme at this speed, because Triple-A speed is not major league speed,” Hurdle said. “Triple-A competition is not major league competition with all the different aspects of the game, whether it'd be holding guys on, coming off the bag, making plays, bunt situations.”

Bell hardly had time to take in his surroundings and scan the ballpark on defense when a bunt situation arose in the eighth inning Saturday.

“Dee Gordon was up there and Josh (Harrison) warned me, he was like, ‘Hey, he will bunt right here,' ” Bell said after Saturday's game. “Thank goodness he bunted it right back to (Jeff) Locke and took it easy on us.”

Bell was not charged with an error in the Pirates' Sunday loss to the Marlins, but was on the receiving end of two throwing errors. Marcell Ozuna reached with two outs in the first when an off-target throw by Ryan Vogelsong drew Bell off the bag, and Bell was unable to tag Ozuna. Sean Rodriguez was charged with a throwing error with no outs in the fifth when his throw short-hopped Bell at first base, allowing Adeiny Hechavarria to reach safely.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said for Bell's efforts on defense, he has put himself in a position where the Pirates feel he is a “capable” defender. There will be times, Huntington said, when Bell shows his youth at the position, but the combination of his defensive work and attributes as a hitter will earn him time in the lineup.

“Clint will make the decision on a daily basis on what he feels will be the best lineup that gives us a chance to win that night. We brought Josh up to play a decent amount,” Huntington said. “How much he plays will be dictated by some things beyond his control but also some things within his control. We do anticipate he'll get some at-bats at first base moving forward.”

Glasnow set for rehab start

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow will make another rehab start with Double-A Altoona on Monday night in Harrisburg as he works his way back from a right shoulder injury.

Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, has been on the disabled list since July 24, a day after he was removed from his second major league start. A rehab start last Sunday with Altoona was cut short before Glasnow reached his target pitch count, but the right-hander threw bullpens on Tuesday and Friday without reporting issues.

He is slated to throw four innings with an anticipated pitch count of 65.

Kang to work core

One objective for Jung Ho Kang during his anticipated two-to-four-week absence will be rehabbing a left shoulder he injured while sliding into second base during the eighth inning Friday against the Marlins.

Another will be strengthening his lower core, an area Hurdle said Kang had trouble working on during the offseason as he returned from a left leg and knee injury and one that has played a part in Kang's recent miscues on defense.

“One of the things we identified earlier with some of the fielding miscues was being a little bit late on his set position, especially to (left-handed hitters hitting the ball to the third-base side),” Hurdle said. “There's going to be opportunity for him to rekindle, reignite, so he's able to come back and be in a stronger position offensively, defensively and mentally than maybe he was when he wasn't hurt.”

In 68 games at third base this season, Kang has committed 12 errors, fourth-most among National League third basemen.

Kingham accumulates innings

Nick Kingham, the Pirates' No. 11 prospect per MLB.com, continues to accumulate innings as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander, who was taken by the Pirates in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, threw five scoreless innings Wednesday for High-A Bradenton to bring his season total to 29. Without outlining a specific plan for the remainder of Kingham's season, Huntington said a tendency for pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery is a late-season shutdown.

“As much as you want to build the innings, they do need shutdown time to allow the body to recover, to allow the body to rebuild for next season,” Huntington said. “I've not had a ton of conversations specifically with (assistant general manager) Kyle (Stark) and (directory of minor league operations) Larry (Broadway) about our gameplan specifically for Nick, but in general when you get that pitcher back on the mound again, you're better served just letting him have a normal baseball offseason.”

Andrew Erickson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @AErickson_Trib.

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