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D-backs manager Kirk Gibson: ‘Heath Bell is still going to be our closer’

Five games, five home runs surrendered, seven earned runs allowed, one loss and a blown save.

Numbers befitting of an erratic part-time closer, not a former three-time All-Star.

However of late, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Heath Bell has looked a lot more like the former than the latter.

Over the last two weeks, Bell has given up long balls to Ramon Hernandez, Juan Uribe, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Ruggiano and Jay Bruce.

Stanton’s blast broke up a two-all tie Monday night and extended the D-backs’ losing streak at the time to four games.

Saturday’s blast by Bruce gave the Cincinnati Reds a 3-2 lead in the ninth and cost starting pitcher Patrick Corbin a chance to go 10-0 to start the season. If not for Jason Kubel’s walk-off single, Bell would have recorded his second loss of the week.

But with J.J. Putz working his way back from the disabled list in Triple-A Reno and David Hernandez scuffling a bit of late, manager Kirk Gibson said Sunday that Bell will still remain the team’s closer for now.

“Pretty much the way it is, he’s still going to be our closer,” said Gibson. “Doesn’t mean today, will I use somebody else? Possibly. We’ll see the situation, we want to get him turned around.”

Bell’s recent struggles are somewhat surprising, given how well he initially responded to the closer promotion after Putz was forced to the DL on May 8. The 35-year-old converted 10 of his first 11 save opportunities before the recent rough patch, giving up just two runs to the Philadelphia Phillies on May 12.

The way Gibson sees it, Bell’s recent woes are mechanical more so than psychological.

“He’s kind of doing what he was doing early in the year. He kind of went back to that,” said Gibson. “It’s a little mechanical but we’ll have to adjust it. You see him out there and he’s throwing virtually all fastballs. He has no feel for his breaking ball at all and really has no direction with his fastball, as well. It’s way too much middle.”

While the D-backs manager noted he’ll consult with pitching coach Charles Nagy regarding Bell’s availability moving forward, he also said it’s not exactly time to hit the panic button just yet.

“He’s saved quite a few games for us too,” said Gibson. “Sometimes I think people overreact. It’s a tough game and you want everybody to be perfect. It just doesn’t work that way.

“I would too, so would Heath Bell, so would J.J. Putz and everyone else on the team, but it’s a tough deal. I just don’t want to overreact to a frustrating situation.”

After Sunday’s action, the D-backs were tied with the Chicago Cubs with the second-most blown saves (14) in all of baseball. Bell (5.02 ERA and 13 saves) has been responsible for three of them.