Struggling Bell will remain Miami's closer for now
By JANIE McCAULEY
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Ozzie Guillen is going to give the struggling Heath Bell every opportunity to keep the closer job for the Miami Marlins.
And Bell is starting to feel like his old dominant self again after some rough appearances so far. He showed it with a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save in Tuesday night's 2-1 victory against the Giants.
"It's not going to happen overnight, and it hasn't happened," Bell said before the game. "I feel closer to the coaching staff than I did two weeks ago, I feel closer to the training staff and the players than I did two weeks ago. That's a big part, too. Coming in, everybody goes, `Oooh, you're Heath Bell the All-Star closer.' Now I'm just a Marlins closer, that's it. That's what I want to be."
Guillen said he spoke earlier Tuesday with pitching coach Randy St. Claire, and they decided to stick with Bell and give him several more chances to hold onto the ninth-inning job.
"Plain and simple, it shows the confidence that Ozzie and the coaching staff have that it will turn around for me," Bell said after his save Tuesday night. "I think that's why they put me out there, just keep showing their confidence."
As Guillen said he will do at every position on his underachieving club, he would consider a change soon if Bell doesn't make steps to be more reliable late in games. The burly right-hander is 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA with two saves and three blown saves in eight appearances spanning 6 2-3 innings. He was tagged for two runs in a non-save situation in the ninth inning of Miami's 9-5 home loss to the Diamondbacks on Monday.
"We're going to be a better club with him being the closer," Guillen said. "I'm very glad for him. Today's a big day for him."
Before the game, Guillen said: "He has to make an adjustment. He's our closer. We have a better ballclub when Heath Bell is in the closer's spot. If this kid continues to struggle then we have to do something different, something I don't want to do but on the other hand I have to do it. We're desperate for wins."
The 34-year-old Bell, who received a $27 million, three-year contract with the big-spending Marlins in December, had 40-plus saves each of the past three seasons with the San Diego Padres, including 43 in 48 chances last year with a 2.44 ERA. He leads the majors with 134 saves over the past three-plus seasons.
Bell threw 46 pitches and walked four in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Mets in New York last Thursday as the Marlins dropped their fifth straight.
Bell acknowledged he got away from his "Mr. Positive" persona that defined him during his tenure in San Diego. He has turned to his faith over the past week to get back on track mentally because he has been "the farthest thing from positive."
"I came in and just had some issues and I kind of fell into a trap of not being me," Bell said. "Definitely, I want to do more, I want to impress. I don't think it was just that. Now I'm starting to really feel like just me."
Updated May 2, 2012