"I like pepper," Bell said. "It's a baseball-related activity and I just think it's a good way to start the day. We haven't done it since, well, forever, so we re-instituted it this year."The drill will be a daily staple during Spring Training, but used sparingly, if at all, during the regular season. Most MLB ballparks prohibit pepper from being played. But there are no such restrictions during the spring. "It gets your feet moving and makes you concentrate on putting the bat on the ball. Interleague Play is a little earlier than it has been in the past, so [pepper] gets a bat into the hands of the pitchers."
So far, so good.
"We were a little concerned, but actually they are pretty good at it," he said. "It's nice to see that our pitchers are athletic."Controlled optimism: A deeper pool of pitching talent and improvement of young players during a tough 2006 season gives Bell a sense that much better things are ahead for the team. "We're not over the hump by any means," he said Sunday, "but I expect us to win more games than we did [in 2006]. To me, that would be the only way to judge our improvement." The Royals won 62 games to extend their streak of 100-loss seasons to three and have now hit the three-figure loss mark four times in the past five years. The single-season high in the first 33 years of the franchise was 97 games, which happened three times. But one positive to come out of the rubble was the positive attitude in the clubhouse and on the field. "I think that from May on, we weren't an easy team to play," he said. "Teams we played didn't really know what was going to happen. We had some talented kids that got better. We still have a lot of young players that have to get better. "I don't have any doubts that this team will play as hard as it can. I think they showed that last year under a lot of adversity. That is not a concern of mine at all." Spring soreness: Several of the 15 pitchers that threw off the bullpen mounds during Saturday's first day of workouts experienced the usual day-after soreness.
"If they weren't sore, they probably wouldn't be doing the things we needed them to do," Bell said. "There will be some normal soreness that these guys have to live with for the next week or so."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.