Pirates’ Bell Seeking Fast Start

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell practices during baseball spring training, in Bradenton, Fla. Bell's vibrant rookie season was a flash of hope in an otherwise dismal 2017 for the Pirates. The first baseman is hoping to prove it wasn't a fluke. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Overall, Josh Bell had a fine rookie season in 2017.

The Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting behind unanimous winner Cody Bellinger of the Los Angles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul DeJong.

Bell’s 26 home runs established an NL rookie record for a switch-hitter. He also had a .255 batting average and a team-high 90 RBIs in 159 games.

However, the 25-year-old Bell is looking for more consistency after a slow start and cold finish last year. He arrived at spring training nearly a full month before the reporting day.

“I felt it was important to shake the cobwebs off earlier this year,” Bell said. “Some guys can roll out of bed and be ready to play in a game. I’m not that way. I need more time to prepare and the more prepared I am the more confident I am that I’ll perform well.”

Bell hit just .214 with two homers in his first 20 games last season after arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his left knee two weeks before spring training opened. However, the Pirates gave no thought of sending him back to Triple-A Indianapolis.

“Josh was still trying to literally get his legs under him,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was a little frustrating for him and we had to pump the air breaks a few times.”

Bell was hitting .262 with 23 home runs at the end of August. But he hit just .221 with three homers in his last 27 games.

The poor finish caused Bell to change his offseason itinerary.

He originally planned to drive the length of the Pacific Coast Highway to take in some breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Instead, he stayed home in Dallas and spent extra time in the weight room and batting cage.

“You always want to finish the season strong and go into the offseason with a good feeling,” Bell said. “I was very disappointed with the way last season ended. I don’t want that to happen again this year. I tried to take safeguards to avoid that from happening.”

The Pirates, though, were pleased with Bell’s performance.

“There were some ups and downs but you’re going to have that with young players,” Hurdle said. “I like what Josh Bell did last season and I like what he can do us going forward. I like Josh Bell a lot.”

The Pirates also appreciated Bell’s defense graded well in advanced metrics. He was shifted to first base from outfield in instructional league following the 2014 season.

“I’ve put a lot of time into learning the position and it felt like everything started really coming together last year,” Bell said.

The Pirates have had high hopes for Bell since selecting him with the first pick of the second round of the 2011 amateur draft.

“Josh is one of the young, potential leaders of this group,” Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. “He had a great rookie season, and instead of taking a deep breath and saying, ‘I’ve got this thing figure out,’ he wants to go to the next level. He wants to be a good player for a very long time.”


Tim Beckham had two hits, including his first home run, and drove in three runs, and Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles. Adam Frazier, hitless in his first eight at-bats, had three hits, including a triple and double, and three RBIs. Orioles’ No. 2 starter Dylan Bundy gave up five runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings.


Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer and Jose Ramirez singled twice and drove in two runs for Cleveland. Trevor Bauer pitched three innings and gave up a run and three hits while striking out four. Cleveland closer Cody Allen pitched a perfect fifth in his first appearance. Joey Gallo homered for Texas. Indians All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor went 0 for 3 and is batting .083.


Clayton Kershaw’s second spring training outing went according to plan, save for one poor throw to first.

The ace left-hander breezed through two scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, allowing one hit and walking one during a victory over the Chicago White Sox. He worked a perfect inning in his spring training debut against Seattle on Sunday.


Russell Wilson struck out in his first spring training at-bat with the New York Yankees. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback pinch hit for AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge in the fifth inning against Atlanta on Friday and swung past a 2-2 pitch from left-hander Max Fried.


Detroit left-hander Travis Wood has a torn left ACL and medial meniscus in left knee, and the team is evaluating surgical options. Wood twisted the knee during a game Thursday. Miguel Cabrera had two hits Friday, including a two-run double. Matthew Boyd, trying to earn a rotation job, gave up three runs four hits in three innings with five strikeouts.


Max Scherzer pitched three perfect innings and struck out five. Ryan Zimmerman doubled in two at-bats in his first appearance of spring training. Tim Tebow and Adrian Gonzalez had back-to-back singles in the fourth inning for New York. It was Tebow’s first hit in seven at-bats. The Mets’ only other hit was Gavin Cecchini’s solo homer leading off the bottom of the ninth.


Joe Mauer had a hit an and RBI, and Eddie Rosario led off the second inning with his first home run. Twins starter Jake Odorizzi struck out three in 2 2/3 hitless innings. Cavan Biggio, the son of Astros Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio, tripled in his only at-bat for Toronto.


Philadelphia’s top prospect Scott Kingery hit his third spring home run. Phillies ace Aaron Nola allowed two runs and three hits in three innings. Blake Snell allowed one run and one hits in two innings.


Boston’s Drew Pomeranz left after one inning due to left forearm tightness. Bud Norris of the Cardinals came out after 2 1/3 innings due to a left hamstring spasm.


Dan Vogelbach, hoping to make the roster while Ryon Healy recovers from hand surgery, has two hits for Seattle, including a three-run homer. Mike Zunino singled for his first hit in 11 at-bats. Junior Guerra, chasing a spot in Milwaukee’s starting rotation, allowed four hits in three shutout innings. Seattle’s Marco Gonzales gave up three hits in three shutouts innings..


Madison Bumgarner pitched three perfect innings in his second start and struck out four. Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey gave up two runs and two hits in three innings, and Reds closer Raisel Iglesias struck out one in a hitless fourth inning. Prospects Steven Duggar and Kyle Jensen had solo homers for the Giants.


Chris Iannetta homered twice and drove in five runs for Colorado. No. 2 starter Chad Bettis allowed four runs and six hits in 2 1/3 innings. Jake Lamb hit a grand slam for Arizona and Paul Goldschmidt singled and drew two walks in three trips.


Jose Quintana made his first start for Chicago and allowed one run and three hits in one inning. Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards gave up two hits in three shutout innings. Jason Heyward led off for the first time this spring training and doubled for his first hit. Ian Kinsler, Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Albert Pujols combined to go 0 for 10 at the top of the Angels’ batting order.


Austin Hedges had two hits, including his fourth home run for San Diego, while Wil Myers singled twice and drove in a run. Jorge Bonifacio hit a three-run homer and Whit Merrifield had two hits for Kansas City, which lost its first big league exhibition. Royals ace Danny Duffy retired his first five batters, then issued consecutive walks. Christian Villanueva followed with the only hit off Duffy, a two-run double.


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