Right-hander Heath Bell wanted to make a strong impression in his first spring training appearance with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but that was not the only thing on his mind in his Saturday debut. His father Jim underwent open heart surgery earlier in the week.
Jim Bell told his son to stay in Arizona and take care of business, so Heath Bell did just that. After giving up singles to the first two batters he faced in the third inning, Bell got a double-play ground ball and a strikeout to complete his scoreless inning.
"It was really nice to go out and pitch and show the Diamondbacks what I could do," said Bell, who even after three straight 40-save seasons with San Diego from 2009-11 admitted to some of the natural anxiety that comes with joining a new team. He went 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA for Miami last season, losing the closer role.
"Oh, yeah. After a year you suck, definitely a lot of nerves. Coming into an organization, I want to show them I'm completely fine. Every great athlete has a bad year and they bounce right back. I feel like I'm going to bounce right back. I just need to keep working hard."
Arizona acquired Bell and shortstop Cliff Pennington in October in a three-team trade that sent outfielder Chris Young to Oakland.
Bell, 35, was penciled into the Diamondbacks' seventh-inning role as spring training began, with David Hernandez as the eighth-inning guy in front of closer J.J. Putz. Bell and Hernandez got work in the first game to help prepare for the World Baseball Classic, as Bell will pitch for Team USA and Hernandez will pitch for Mexico. They are scheduled to leave for the Classic on March 2, although it will be no trek for Bell inasmuch as the U.S. team will train at the D-backs' spring facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he was pleased with what he saw in Bell's first outing.
"I've watched him get out of a lot of messes," Gibson said, referring to Bell's history. "It took us a long time when I was here to get (to) him. He knows how to get out of trouble. The thing that you look at is, he executed the pitch when he needed to execute the pitch. That's encouraging."
Jim Bell, a former Marine, has been battling cancer for three years.
"He's a tough man. He's a tough Marine. He's not going to give up yet," Heath Bell said.