Bell wants to keep velocity consistent

SURPRISE, Ariz. – As he enters the 2011 campaign, left-hander Chad Bell looks to build upon a strong debut that produced a 3.10 ERA in 104.2 innings at Spokane and Hickory. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the 22-year-old for a Q&A session.

The top portion of this story was also published in an offseason interview with Bell from last September.

Left-hander Chad Bell finished off a solid first season in professional ball last year. He logged 104.2 innings between short-season Spokane and Single-A Hickory, posting a 3.10 earned-run average. He allowed just 86 hits while walking 30 and striking out 97.

The Walters State College product was selected by the Rangers in the 14th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, but he commanded a $450,000 signing bonus (late-second or early-third round money) after last summer's excellent performance in the Cape Cod League.

A starting pitching prospect, Bell started in only 12 of his 34 appearances last season, as the Rangers eased him into pro ball. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound southpaw has a big frame and three promising pitches.

Many pitchers struggle with inconsistent fastball velocity in their first full season. That was certainly the case with Bell, whose fastball ranged anywhere between 85-93 mph in 2010.

During an early-August start against Charleston attended by Lone Star Dugout, Bell's fastball sat at 85-88 mph. He worked in the 88-91 mph range at times, reaching as high as 92 in spring training and 93 during a start with Spokane.

The Tennessee native clearly knows how to pitch. He attacks both corners of the plate effectively and changes hitters' eye levels with his fastball––allowing his heater to fool hitters and generate some swinging strikes even at the lower velocity.

Though the 22-year-old has an excellent feel for pitching, he must refine his command a bit, particularly with the fastball. Bell walked only five hitters in 32 innings after returning to Hickory in August, but he often nibbled a little, leading to high pitch counts.

Bell also attacks hitters with a 74-76 mph curveball and a 79-81 mph change. He came into the Rangers organization as largely a fastball-changeup pitcher, but the curveball made strides last season and he used it with more frequency. Both offerings show at least average potential, if not better.

Because Bell isn't overpowering and doesn't have electric stuff, he tends to fly under the radar in a farm system deep with pitching. But the prospect is an intriguing arm to watch––particularly if he can sustain the 88-91 mph velocity in his second full season.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Bell after a recent spring training workout.

Jason Cole: Tell me about your offseason and all the stuff you did to prepare for your second full season in professional ball.

Chad Bell: I tried to get more arm strength conditioning-wise. When I got done with last year, I was at about 235. I wanted to come back in at about 225. I think I came in at about 223. It was just a bunch of physical stuff––working on my diet and some stuff like that.

Cole: You split the 2010 season between short-season Spokane and Single-A Hickory. Overall, how did you come away feeling about last year?

Bell: I thought, overall, the season was pretty good. I think there were a few up and downs there at the beginning of the year. I had too many walks. I think I got all that out of the way and had a decent year. It was long, for my first year. The 140 or 142 games starts to wear on you a little bit at the end of the season. But overall, I thought it was really good.

Cole: You threw 104.2 innings between the two levels last season. Had you thrown that much in the past?

Bell: I've thrown pretty close to that, but not over that period of time––the six months or whatever. I probably threw it over about four months, and I think that wears on you too––throwing every day for six months. And it's really seven and a half months if you count spring training.

Cole: As you go into the 2011 campaign, what's something that you really want to improve upon from last season?

Bell: Really this year, I want to keep working on getting the curveball more consistent. I want more consistent velocity, too. Another thing I'm working on is just focus level on what you're trying to do with your pitches. I think, so far, it has showed. I feel like my command has gotten a lot better, just through my bullpens. I want to carry that focus in the bullpens over to the game.

Cole: What do you feel you have to do to get the curveball and velocity more consistent?

Bell: Just going through the first full season––I think that took a little bit off my fastball velocity there at the end. Getting that full season out of the way, I think that will help coming into this year. I think that will be back up to where it normally is. And just having your body totally in shape so you're physically prepared––so you feel good day in and day out while you're out there.

Cole: Have you began to set any goals for yourself this season?

Bell: I just want to go out there and put up good numbers day in and day out. I want to compete. Then I think the rest will hopefully take care of itself.

Cole: Have the Rangers told you anything about where you'll be pitching this season?

Bell: It's still up in the air. You never really know. We've got a bunch of good pitchers in this organization. All I can do is go out there and throw well day in and day out and see what happens.

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