Nats, reliever Bell agree on Minor League deal

Nats, reliever Bell agree on Minor League deal

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals added bullpen depth on Monday by signing reliever Heath Bell to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Bell broke the news in Derek Jeter's magazine, The Players' Tribune. If Bell makes the team, his base salary will be $1 million, according to a source.

"Today I'm in D.C. because I'm still chasing that dream. At around noon today, I signed with the Nationals," Bell said in the article. "I can't wait to play for the Nationals. By writing this, I guess everyone will know that I like to throw a first-pitch fastball for a strike. Some secret now. But see if you can hit it."

Bell also is reunited with manager Matt Williams. The two worked together with the D-backs in 2013, when Williams was the third-base coach.

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"He is an old school manager -- play hard, work hard. Just go out there and help the team win," Bell said via telephone. "That's the way he was in Arizona a few years ago when I was there. I think he is going to do great things for the Nationals. I'm very blessed that they want me to be a part of it."

The Nationals are looking for a reliever to replace Rafael Soriano, and Bell could join Tyler Clippard in a setup role. A few years ago, Bell was among the top closers in baseball. His best season was in 2010, when he had 47 saves and a 1.93 ERA for the Padres. He finished eighth in the National League Cy Young Award voting that year.

Most of Bell's success came with the Padres. In his five years in San Diego (2007 to 2011), he saved 134 games and recorded a 2.53 ERA. Over the last three years, however, he has struggled with the Marlins, D-backs and Rays. For Tampa Bay in 2014, he allowed 14 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings.

Bell expects things to be different with the Nationals. For starters, he says, he is in great shape. He has lost 35 pounds this offseason and is looking to lose another 10 before camp. With the help of a friend, Bell works out as though training for a triathlon. He is biking, running and swimming, and is also eating right.

"I want to be in the best shape and give everything I have. I just go out there and give it my all," he said. "I feel like I have everything to prove. You could say I had three bad years. It's one of those things [where] I have to prove myself all over again. I'm going to be the best pitcher I can. I'm going to give myself every opportunity to win a job with the Nationals, help them make the playoffs and, hopefully, win a World Series."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.