Josh Bell went down early in the 2012 season with a torn meniscus. The 2011 second round pick was originally expected to return during the 2012 season. However, Bell’s knee experienced swelling during the rehab process, which kept the outfielder out of action for the remainder of the season.
“He’s still within that four to six month window for the meniscus tear that he had,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “We were hoping it was going to be on the shorter said of that, unfortunately now it’s in the middle part of that, and may get to the longer part of it. Some bodies respond differently than others, and Josh is a competitor. He wanted to be back out there, and get going on. His body just hasn’t cooperated with him. We’re continuing to work through, what are the options, rest? Is there some other procedure that we can do with him? I think realistically that the next time that we see him in a competitive environment on a baseball field is probably Spring Training of next year.”
Bell has been dealing with swelling in the knee. He’s taking batting practice, including live batting practice. He’s also continuing his rehab. But the swelling prevents him from returning to the field at this point. The Fall Instructional League is coming up, and if the swelling in Bell’s knee goes away he could still participate in those games.
“Instructional League, we’re still within that four to six month window,” Huntington said. “Something could go great, and it may click for him. The conditioned irritation that he’s had in that knee may disappear, may be able to get him going, but I think the big picture is in spring training next year. It is what it is. Injuries are gray areas. We’ve been hopeful that we’d be on the front side, and now it’s looking to be on the backside.”
The lost year might be a minor impact in the long run for a guy with Bell’s upside. But in the short-term the injury has already played an impact. He recently fell of MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list, after being ranked 60th overall coming in to the year. The reason Bell dropped in the MLB.com rankings is probably the same reason he dropped in the Pirates Prospects rankings. It’s not that Bell’s injury hurts his long-term value. It’s that he missed the majority of a year, while other players (Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco) were able to use that time to move ahead of him. Bell still has the upside that he could jump back on the top prospect lists with a big season next year.
“It’s frustrating, disappointing for him,” Huntington said. “He’s a competitor. He wants to get out there. But he’s not the first guy that’s lost four months of the season. He’s not going to be the last guy. We’re looking forward to getting him back going again. We feel like he’ll make up for lost time.”
Cole Faces Some Adversity
Top prospect Gerrit Cole finished the 2012 season in Triple-A Indianapolis, which was a bit of a surprise. The right-hander struggled with his control in his final two starts with Altoona, before being promoted to Triple-A. Cole didn’t fare as well in his two Triple-A starts. His first outing wasn’t bad, giving up three runs on six hits in six innings, with a 7:1 K/BB ratio. His damage came in the first inning, and Cole followed that with five shutout innings. But in the second outing, which came in the playoffs, Cole gave up eight earned runs in two innings.
“We’ve talked repeatedly about wanting guys to face adversity before they get to the big leagues because this is a tough spot to experience it for the first time. Gerrit got some adversity,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “He will have a long time this off-season to soak it all in, to reflect on it, and figure out what he would do differently next time. I think probably the biggest lesson is Triple-A can hit 100. If you keep coming with 100, they’re going to keep hitting it. You’ve got to locate it, you’ve got to use all your pitches. And that’s what good about Gerrit. He’s so capable of doing that. He’s so capable of throwing four pitches, four strikes in any count. But he’s also capable of throwing a 94 mph power sinker and keeping it down and getting a double play when he gives up a leadoff single. I think it snowballed on him. Things got a little quick on him. He’s going to be better for it.”
The right-hander could start next season in Triple-A. He posted a 2.90 ERA in 59 innings with Altoona, along with a 60:23 K/BB ratio. He also started slow in his first few starts in Bradenton and Altoona, so the less than dominant start in Indianapolis isn’t a big concern. Cole finished with 134 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. He could still have some innings left for the off-season, which could help him get ready for Triple-A next season. Those innings will most likely come during the Fall Instructional League, where innings are more controlled by the team, as opposed to the various winter leagues.
“We’re still working through what the options are,” Huntington said. “He’s got some innings left that we could push into. But we’ve got to spend some time with him, spend some time overall where we can place him. Can we place him in a spot that we feel is beneficial for him? We’ve got some other guys that we’re working through that with as well. We want to try to maximize the innings, to keep their innings and pitch counts moving.”