Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Not the Main Course Bell Sees Fast Start as Appetizer, Preview of Even Better Statistics This Year

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Not the Main Course Bell Sees Fast Start as Appetizer, Preview of Even Better Statistics This Year

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES - Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Josh Bell's hot start is that he knows he's not firing on all cylinders yet.

"September last year, I was hitting really good pitches and driving them," Bell said. "This year, I feel like I've hit more of the mistake pitch. So I'm definitely excited to continue to progress and continue to work my hands inside the ball and start hitting tougher pitches."

He's either getting a lot of mistakes or he's not missing ones he sees. Bell has six home runs through 26 games. He hit 12 in 148 games last season. Add in seven doubles and two triples, and he has a .591 slugging percentage, and his .355 on-base percentage is higher than his first full season, 2017, when he hit 26 home runs and finished third in the National League rookie of the year voting.

In September, Bell narrowed his focus at the plate to driving the ball to the opposite gap, a strategy that resulted in success. He spent the offseason working out in California and trying to further ingrain that approach. Accumulating more at-bats during the season and seeing opposing pitchers more than once contributed to his September success, when he was not just punishing mistakes but hitting good pitches.

"Looking forward to seeing the same guys over and over again as the course of the season goes on," Bell said. "Start seeing the same guys out of the bullpen and having a better attack plan for them.

"Just having an attack plan for guys, guys executing their pitches and kind of doing damage on what they want to get you out with. It's more frustrating for them and awesome for us."

Bell's production looks especially important now, with half the roster on the injured list, but it was going to be important anyway after an offseason in which the Pirates' offensive upgrades included re-signing Jung Ho Kang, who had played three games in the majors during the past two years, and signing Lonnie Chisenhall, who has hit when healthy but frequently has not been healthy.

They fired their hitting coaches and hired new ones to help squeeze more offense out of the players they had. …

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