D'Backs GM: Bell has "lot left in tank"

Published Dec. 3, 2013

New Rays reliever - and potential closer - Heath Bell was one of the best in the game from 2009-2011, when he racked up 132 saves for the Padres with a 2.36 ERA.

But Bell, 36, acquired from Arizona Tuesday as part of a three-team deal, is coming off two disappointing seasons, including a 4.11 ERA in 2013.

Which Bell are the Rays getting? Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who saw Bell up-close as Padres GM in 2009 and dealt him Tuesday, believes the veteran still has "got a lot left in the tank."

"If you look at his velocity, it's still very good," Towers said in a conference call. "His velocity was very comparable to what I saw in San Diego and what was in Florida, 92-94 mph fastball, fastball is true. For Heath, it's all location, if he's able to hit his spots.

"The thing I probably saw, not only with the Marlins, and probably with us, he just didn't land his curveball as effectively and consistently as he did in San Diego. The strikeout/walk rates (72:16) were still very good. Last year, I think it was really not being able to keep the ball in the ballpark, lot of his runs came via home run. Not just Heath, but our entire bullpen struggled that way. Lot of it has to do with Chase Field, which is number 2 (to Coors Field) in the way of altitude, a very offensive ballpark, where Tampa I think should be better...

"I still think he's got a lot left in the tank. He's got a very resilient arm, this guy will never shy away from taking the baseball regardless of how he's been throwing, lot of confidence in his ability and he's a guy that when other pitchers need rest, he'll take the ball back to back to back days."

Bell gave up 30 runs last season for Arizona, including a career-high 12 homers, losing his closer's role. But the Rays have been known to rejuvenate careers of veteran relievers the past few years (Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Kyle Farnsworth), with "one of the best pitching coaches" in the game, Towers said.

And Towers said Bell's "big little kid" personality will fit well with manager Joe Maddon.