Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bell Tries to Avoid 'Offseason Slump' with Tireless Plan

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bell Tries to Avoid 'Offseason Slump' with Tireless Plan

Article excerpt

A few days before the regular season let out, first-year first baseman Josh Bell circled the Pirates clubhouse and asked veterans about their offseason routines. He was heading home to Dallas for the winter, and he didn't want to get rusty. Perhaps the best piece of advice Bell received was this from corner infielder David Freese: "You don't want to get in a slump in the offseason."

And so Bell, 24, barely has taken a break since the season ended. In the garage, he takes cuts on a Hit-A-Way swing trainer - "taking swings without the results," he says - and pelts a punching bag. He fields fly balls and ground balls at nearby fields. Intending to shed 10-15 pounds this winter for a playing weight close to 230 pounds, Bell started attending yoga and spin classes regularly.

Playing against Ichiro Suzuki in 2016 showed Bell the importance of fitness and longevity.

In the minors, Bell recalled recently, "I thought to myself, 'Gotta get to the big leagues, gotta get to the big leagues, gotta get to the big leagues. That's the light at the end of the tunnel.' Then you get there and you realize you're just getting out of the starting blocks. . [I'm] focusing on my body and not how hard I can swing a bat. Trying to focus on the complete package."

Bell debuted with the Pirates in July and put together a fine first season in the majors. He batted .273 with a .775 OPS in 45 games. He had 21 walks to 19 strikeouts. A switch-hitter, Bell faced a left-hander just 23 times in 152 plate appearances. He felt he got into a bad habit of looking ahead to the next few opponents, seeing right-handed heavy rotations and bullpens, and taking fewer batting-practice reps from the right-handed side. This winter, he's giving equal time to each side.

"Pretty much everybody out of the pen is going to be mid, upper 90s [mph] with the ability to throw in on my hands," Bell said. "Game plan for next year is I've got to be ready to stick my hands in and get them out of there - pull a ball hard so [that] for the rest of the series I might not have to worry about it. …

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