Former D-backs reliever Heath Bell: ‘They wanted me to pitch in a way I’d never pitched before’
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, unless of course you’re former Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Heath Bell.
Bell, who was traded by general manager Kevin Towers to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-way deal last December, pitched only one season in the Valley, and apparently he’s not exactly looking in his rear view mirror with a ton of memories to share.
In an interview with MLB.com’s Barry Bloom, Bell admitted he wasn’t surprised about the trade, after the team stopped calling on him to pitch late in the 2013 campaign.
“I was a little surprised, but not too much because in September they stopped using me,” Bell told MLB.com. “It wasn’t because they just wanted to use the kids. They were using me in the eighth inning and then all of a sudden I was pitching in really weird innings. I think the Rays were just interested in picking me up and K.T. [Towers] always says if there’s a good deal out there he’ll make a trade. It doesn’t matter who it will be. Maybe I just didn’t fit in their plans.”
A former three-time All-Star, Bell had his fair share of highs and lows as a member of the D-backs.
While the veteran reliever portrayed his frustration over a lack of use down the stretch, Bell wasn’t without his chances last season.
The Oceanside, Calif. native began the year as a setup man for J.J. Putz, and yet despite posting a 4.50 ERA in his first month on the job, Bell was named the team’s de facto closer when Putz went down in early May.
From May 7 to July 3, Bell converted 14 out of a possible 16 saves, allowing only nine runs during that span. But after a brief stint of success, the wheels began to fall off.
As Bloom detailed in his piece, Bell blew four of his first five second-half save opportunities, leaving the door open for Brad Ziegler to assume the closer position.
Following back-to-back rough outings (six runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings of work) on Aug. 28 and Sept. 1, Bell was reduced to more or less mop-up duty — pitching only seven times over the final three-plus weeks.
Ultimately, the well-traveled right-hander chalks up his up-and-down season in the desert as a product of philosophical differences with manager Kirk Gibson and his coaching staff.
“My pitching style is a little different than most pitchers and most closers,” Bell told MLB.com. “I wanted to go out there and pitch my style. We didn’t really see eye to eye after awhile. I always felt like I was trying to swim upstream. I try to mix up my pitches. Closers usually come in and pound the strike zone with fastballs. I have a good fastball, but not one that I can just blow by anybody.
“I like to go in and out, use both sides of the plate. I felt like they wanted me to go in a lot more. My style was more away, but I was trying to do their style. It was just tough. When the catcher and the pitcher really don’t see eye to eye it’s hard to go out there and have a really good game. They wanted me to pitch in a way I’d never pitched before.”
Bell, who will be pitching for his fourth different team in four years, has one-year left on a deal he signed with Marlins prior to the 2012 season. He also has a vesting option worth $9 million for 2015.