PHOENIX – One of the biggest names likely to be dealt by the end of the month is San Diego closer Heath Bell. And the Rangers are certainly looking for pitching help, especially late-inning relief.
Bell knows trade rumors are swirling about him. He’s 33 years old and will be a free agent at the end of the season. He wants to be a closer in 2012 but indicated Monday during the All-Star Game media availability that he would set up this season if he’s traded to a contender.
“If you’ve got a closer right now and you need me to be the eighth-inning guy, I’ll be the eighth-inning guy,” Bell said. “Secretly, I would probably tell the manager, ‘Look, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to show you I can beat the other guy.’ If the other guy is better than me, then we’ll have one heck of a bullpen.”
Bell said being the eighth-inning setup man doesn’t just mean the eighth inning.
“Sometimes you have to get out of the seventh too and then the eighth,” Bell said. “That’s fine. If I can pitch more, I’d like that.”
Bell said the San Diego bullpen, which includes other trade possibilities in Chad Qualls and Mike Adams, has joked about the trade deadline. Qualls bet Bell dinner that he’d be traded before the All-Star closer. And sometimes they pick a city and talk about living there and what it would all entail.
Bell doesn’t care which league he ends up pitching to finish 2011.
I like the NL because I know everybody,” Bell said. “Then I look at the AL and they don’t really know me. I don’t think in the major leagues you trick anybody or you fool anybody because everybody kind of knows everybody. It’s going to be interesting. If I get traded to the AL, I’ve got a lot of homework to do, but they also have a lot of homework to do.”
Bell did stress that he wants to close in 2012. That could make sense for Texas if they can agree on a new contract for Bell and then possibly slide current closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation next season.
As for where he might go this offseason, he said how much his wife enjoys a particular city and how comfortable is family will be is a major consideration. So will the makeup of the team and a club's desire for Bell.
"Do they really want me?," Bell said. "I like where I’m wanted. I’ve always wanted to be somewhere where I can give my heart and soul to and I’m just not another number. I want to give back to the community, give back to the fans, the organization, pitch really well and do the job the best that I can. I want to feel like I’m home."
Bell added that the training staff is San Diego is excellent and that he'd want someting similar in a prospective team (good news for the Rangers, who have a first-rate training staff).
"The coaches too," Bell said. "Every coach in San Diego we can trust. You can say anything and people won’t talk about it. There’s a lot of trust in the coaching staff. That works well for an organization."
Bell also talked about how much team chemistry matters.
"It’s not fun being around teams that have no chemstiry whatsoever but are really good," Bell said. "Yeah, you win, but you’re not having fun while you do it."