Bucs not rushing hot-hitting Bell into bigger role
Pittsburgh's No. 3 prospect hit PH slam in 2nd MLB at-bat
By Sarah K. Spencer
PITTSBURGH -- General manager Neal Huntington knows the small sample size monster is rearing its head in light of Josh Bell's sudden success.
In his first two Major League at-bats, Bell had a single off Jake Arrieta and a pinch-hit grand slam off Adam Warren, which helped the Pirates cruise through their first two games against the division-leading Cubs. In Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Cubs, Bell fell behind 0-2 before drawing a nine-pitch walk. But he won't bat 1.000 forever.
Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, was called up to be a bat off the bench in Pittsburgh's final series before the All-Star break, and he will likely be sent back down to Triple-A Indianapolis afterward. Despite his success, the Pirates will not play Bell ahead of John Jaso at first base.
Bell, who has had to transition from right field to first base, hit .324 with a .407 on-base percentage, .535 slugging percentage and a .942 OPS in 83 Triple-A games. He hit 13 home runs and 19 doubles, with 55 strikeouts to 41 walks.
"It's hard to keep a young player who still has work remaining on the bench at the Major League level and not getting consistent opportunities," Huntington said. "That might not be the best thing for him."
There may be room for Bell to stay on the roster depending on what happens with right fielder Gregory Polanco, whose play has been limited by a nagging left leg injury. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle mentioned the team will evaluate Polanco after the All-Star break to determine if time on the disabled list is necessary.
Around the Horn
• The Pirates haven't announced a starting pitcher rotation for after the All-Star break yet, in part due to Gerrit Cole's Sunday Triple-A rehab start. Cole was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 11 with a right triceps strain, and threw three innings and 45 pitches in his first rehab start on July 5.
In Sunday's game with Triple-A Indianapolis, Cole pitched five scoreless innings, giving up two hits. He threw 70 pitches, 45 for strikes. The team now has to determine if Cole needs another rehab start or if he's ready to return.
• When the Pirates recalled Bell, they also sent down Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow allowed four runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings in his Major League debut on July 7. He's another rotation option after the All-Star break.
"We'll juggle some things around," Huntington said. "As a result, we'll need to see where Gerrit is. So we've lined out multiple scenarios, but nothing for public consumption as we need to tell our guys first what our thoughts are before we announce it publicly."
• Trade rumors surround Jonathon Niese, who went 1-4 with a 6.21 ERA in June and gave up five runs on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings on Sunday. Combine that with Chad Kuhl's struggles to get his sinker down and Jameson Taillon spending time on the 15-day disabled list for right shoulder fatigue, and it makes sense the Pirates haven't sorted out their rotation for after the break.
Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.