When the Texas Rangers signed left-hander Chad Bell for $450,000 as their 14th round pick last summer, the club viewed him as a starting pitcher.
Unfortunately, out of Spring Training this year, there weren't enough spots to go around for some of the organization's young hurlers.
Though Bell broke his first camp with a full-season club––the Single-A Hickory Crawdads––he did so as a reliever.
The 6-foot-4 prospect ended up logging 28.1 innings in 18 appearances out of the Hickory bullpen, posting a 1-1 record and a 2.86 earned-run average. He yielded 21 hits while walking 13 and striking out 27.
Bell improved as the first half progressed. As he points out below, a slight mechanical adjustment helped his control, and he surrendered just three earned runs in his final 20.1 innings with the team [1.33 ERA].
With Hickory's pitching staff full of potential starting prospects, the Rangers recently sent Bell and fellow southpaw Miguel De Los Santos down to short-season Spokane to work as starting pitchers.
Bell made his first professional start in Vancouver on Tuesday evening, tossing four scoreless innings on approximately 65 pitches. He allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out five.
The 21-year-old's fastball sat right around 90 mph and topped out at 93––actually up a tick from his time in Hickory, where he was generally between 87-91 mph. Bell says he threw just one curveball in the game, generally relying on his strong fastball-changeup mix.
If Bell succeeds as a starting pitcher in Spokane, he could be a candidate to pitch out of the rotation in Hickory––obviously depending on whether or not any of the club's current starters receive promotions.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the Tennessee native after his starting debut.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your time in Hickory this season?
Chad Bell: I thought it went well. It was good for me to experience that level even though I was in a relief role. I enjoyed getting the innings in up there and I felt like I improved a bunch.
Cole: Like you said, you were pitching out of the bullpen with the Crawdads. Had you ever done that before?
Bell: I had a couple appearances in the Cape Cod League out of the bullpen, but that's about it.
Cole: You went into that role coming out of Spring Training, where you were also working in short stints. Did that help smooth out the adjustment process?
Bell: Yeah. The hardest part for me is sitting for six or seven innings and then having to jump up and get loose in a short period of time compared to coming out for 30 minutes before the game and taking my time.
Cole: You had your biggest struggles early in the year. Was part of that just getting used to coming out of the bullpen?
Bell: Yeah, I think that had a little to do with it and really your whole body kind of gets cold when sitting there for that long. I got myself into trouble by walking people and giving up free bases. But after settling down and lowering the walks, I feel like it helped me a lot.
Cole: After Spring Training, we talked about how you'd moved over to the third base side of the rubber. Are you still doing that?
Bell: I moved back to the left [first base] side earlier this season because I was missing a bunch on the third base side of the plate. I've switched back over to fix that and it has helped.
Cole: I guess it's safe to assume that's why your walks have decreased as the season has progressed?
Bell: I think that's a little bit of it. I was getting caught pulling a lot of pitches.
Cole: What areas of your game did you feel improved the most in Hickory?
Bell: Commanding both sides of the plate and recognizing hitters' swings and their weaknesses. That has really helped a bunch with pitch sequences.
Cole: I know your curveball was a pretty big focus this spring. How is it coming along?
Bell: Well, tonight the fastball-changeup combination was working very well, so I only got to throw one curveball. But it is coming along and I'm getting more comfortable with it in every outing.
Cole: When did you find out that you'd be going to Spokane to join a starting rotation?
Bell: They told me on Saturday night and I flew out on Sunday morning.
Cole: Before you learned that, did you know you'd be starting at some point this year?
Bell: I thought I would be and I knew that was part of the plan, but I didn't really know when that was going to happen.
Cole: You got your first pro start tonight. How'd you feel about it?
Bell: I felt really good. I went four innings and threw around 65 pitches. The most I had thrown before was around 47 or so. I think it was a good outing.
Cole: You mentioned throwing only one curveball. I know you've always liked your changeup, so I assume you even mixed in some lefty-on-lefty changes tonight?
Bell: Yes. I threw about three of them tonight and got a couple rollover ground balls.
Cole: Even though you've been pitching all year at a higher level, were there any butterflies or anything knowing that it was your first start?
Bell: I think it was more adrenaline and excitement. I wasn't really nervous at all. It was just good to get out there and start a game.
Cole: Now that you're starting, what would you like to accomplish out of that role before the end of the year?
Bell: Really I just want to get quality innings in and start extending my outings. I want to go deeper into games and then see where it takes me from there.
Cole: Are you expecting to have your pitch count extended as you progress?
Bell: I believe that is the plan. I think right now it's between 65 and 70 pitches. Hopefully, after a couple more outings, it will go up some.
Bell finds success in first start
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