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David Brown

Padres' Heath Bell wistful about Trevor Hoffman's 600th save

David Brown
Big League Stew

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SAN DIEGO — Had it been feasible, San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell(notes) would have left PETCO Park on Tuesday night and traveled to Milwaukee's Miller Park.

Trevor Hoffman(notes), a friend and former teammate, was collecting his 600th career save in front of his family. Bell was sad to miss it, but the Padres needed him to close out their 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dumb ol' pennant race!

"I'm a little disappointed I wasn't a part of it — because I was part of 500," said Bell, who is pictured on the right hoisting Hoffman by the right leg on that very night in 2007.

Like many of the fans at PETCO, Bell settled for watching a video highlight of Hoffman's 600th on the scoreboard. Bell probably stood as long and clapped as enthusiastically as anyone in the stadium.

"I stood up, tipped my hat, clapped the whole time I saw it. And a tear came ... well, my eyes got watery. I don't want to say I cried," Bell said. "It was a huge honor just to be a set-up guy to Trevor. Great guy. Wish him the best. ... I saw his boys out there and his wife. ... But I'm happy for him. He is the best. I'll keep going on and on, but I'm basically going to repeat how great a guy he is."

Though his friend struggled at the beginning of the season — putting it mildly — and lost his closing job to John Axford(notes) in May, Bell had faith Hoffman still could reach 600.

"You know, during the season I was just hoping they would give him a chance," Bell said. "I knew, if they gave him a chance, they would get there.

"Axford's been pitching lights-out, so it's just one of those things, when Milwaukee fell out of the race, that they might give him a chance. I think he was four [saves] away when they replaced him. That's all I thought it would take — four chances."

Bell thinks the almost-43-year-old Hoffman, once he retires, will own the saves record for a long time. Mariano Rivera(notes), who is 40, has 555 career saves. Rivera's contract is up after this season.

"He knows he's No. 1 in the postseason," Bell said of Rivera. "It's going to take him two more years to catch Trevor. Does he want to stick around for two more years? ... They can't rely on him forever."

It's hard to imagine the major leagues without Rivera continuing to post saves. And, as Hoffman showed early this season, probable Hall of Famers don't pitch like that forever. Is 55 saves enough of a cushion? If Rivera pitches until he's 42 or 43, Hoffman and Bell might have to be happy with second place all-time.

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