Forget the past but influence the future.
That was the message Diamondbacks’ new reliever Heath Bell gave to reporters last Friday at a charity golf tournament.
After several stellar seasons as the Padres closer, Bell signed on with the Miami Marlins at the start of the 2012 season, but only to fall flat on his face. He refuses to speak about the maladies of last season, but is clearly energized by is new home in the desert.
Speaking with the Arizona media for the first time since the October 21 three team deal that sent outfielder Chris Young from the Diamondbacks to Oakland, shortstop Cliff Pennington from the A’s to Arizona and Bell from Miami to the D-backs, Bell said he was happy to be reunited with D-backs general manager Kevin Towers, who brought Bell to San Diego as the Padres’ GM, in a trade.
With Arizona picking up the 2013 option on closer J. J. Putz for $6.5 million, and setup reliever David Hernandez signing a two deal in the middle of last season, Bell was brought in, at this point, to pitch the seventh inning. Then again, he could relieve Hernandez for an eighth inning assignment, and give Putz an occasionally rest and close.
At any rate, the acquisition of Bell continues to strengthen Towers’ belief that a competitive team begins with a strong bullpen.
“Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll be happy,” Bell said. “If they need me in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, I’m fine with that. Whenever the phone rings, I’ll be ready to get as many guys out until they pull me from the game.”
This is second baseball marriage between Bell and Towers. Bell began his career when he signed an amateur free agent with the New York Mets in 1998. Eventually, Towers brought him to San Diego in a November, 2006 trade.
“Give Towers a lot of credit for the development of my career,” Bell said. “From the time of the trade from the Mets, he saw something in me that no one else saw, and I’m happy to play for him.”
After closer Trevor Hoffman moved the Brewers after the 2008 season, Bell moved into the closer role. In a three year period, from 2009 to 2011, he recorded 132 saves, converted 41 straight save opportunities at one time, and developed a reputation as one of the most fearless closers in the game.
Using these numbers and his strong production as an economic springboard, Bell signed as a free agent with the Marlins in the last off-season. A three year deal worth $21 million lured the 35 year-old native of Oceanside, Calif. to the newly-branded Miami Marlins.
Yet, things in south Florida did not go according to script.
Early season maladies and a string of blown saves put Bell out of his closer job. In addition, he fell out of favor with then-Miami manager Ozzie Gillen and subsequently had what he acknowledged as a less than productive season.
That brought Towers back in the picture and he quickly acquired Bell in that three-team deal in late October.
Yet, the Diamondbacks have to settle and pay the bulk of Bell’s hefty deal originially signed with the Marlins.
Going forward, the Diamondbacks will pay $9 million for 2013, $9 million in 2014 and $9 million if they decide to pick up his option in 2015. The Marlins will pay $1.5 million in 2013, $3.5 million in 2014 and $3 million of the deferred signing bonus Bell is owed.
“Look, I don’t want to talk about what happened last season, and just leave it at that,” he said. “Let’s talk about the 2013 season and the Diamondbacks are a team which has many young superstars. They may not be household names right now, but just give these guys a few years.”
Bell said he was impressed with the approach the Diamondbacks’ organization takes to the game. That may be one reason why the system produced three league winners, Reno, Mobile and Missoula, in 2012.
“The organization teaches guys how to win at this level, and that’s important,” Bell added. “Look at my situation,. All I wanted was someone to give me a chance. (Towers) did that in San Diego, and he did it again here.”
Most players returned home for the up-coming holidays, but those who remain now begin to seriously think about next season.
After taking a month and one half off, right-hander Ian Kennedy, acknowledged as the current ace of the D-backs staff, began workouts for 2013 on Monday Nov. 12.
“I’m doing land work for three days a week to start, and will not pick up a baseball yet,” he said just before teeing off in the D-backs charity golf classic last Friday. “Guess it’s time to get ready.”
Kennedy, along with several others, will work out at the D-backs spring training facility at Salt River.
After a stellar 21-4 record and 2.88 ERA in 2011, Kennedy tailed off to record a 15-11 season and 4.02 ERA this past year.