Guillen: Struggling Bell remains Marlins' closer
By STEVEN WINE
MIAMI (AP) While the home fans are down on struggling Miami Marlins closer Heath Bell, he still has the support of manager Ozzie Guillen.
Bell sat and watched the ninth inning Sunday, but only because his team trailed. Before the game, Guillen said Bell was still his closer, even after the three-time All-Star had to be yanked in the ninth inning from consecutive games.
"It's going to be very hard for us to win if Heath Bell is not our closer," Guillen said. "It's easier for everyone if this kid comes out and does what he has been doing in the past. We have to get him back on track, and we have to give him the confidence."
Bell has been a target of jeers from Miami fans much of this season, thanks to an ERA of 8.47. The Marlins newcomer began Sunday tied for the major league lead with four blown saves in 11 chances, and he failed to make it through the ninth inning Friday or Saturday against the San Francisco Giants.
In each game, a teammate replaced Bell to earn a harrowing save.
But Guillen's not ready to demote Bell, who signed a $27 million, three-year contract during the Marlins' offseason spending spree.
"My job is to put him out there and create more confidence," Guillen said. "It's easy to criticize, but I think my job and my coaches' job is to continue to believe in him. I hope he can finally go out there and do what he's supposed to do."
Guillen added: "I wish he would throw more strikes."
Bell says he's healthy, and his fastball has been clocked at 95 mph. But he has given up 14 walks in 17 innings, and opponents are batting .333 against him.
"I'm sure it's surprising everybody, considering how good he has been," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Marlins had no call for their closer Sunday, when they trailed from the first inning and lost to the Giants 3-2.
Updated May 27, 2012