PITTSBURGH — Pirates first baseman Josh Bell isn’t a player that ever really gets comfortable doing one thing. Especially when it comes to his swing.
Bell is a notorious tinkerer. Whether it’s the positioning of his front foot, his hands, his back elbow, he’s not afraid to go out and try new things — even at the major-league level.
Part of that stems from his .262 career batting average being a lot lower than the .303 mark he posted in the minors and a desire to increase that figure. But a good part of it is also just Bell’s nature as someone who is curious about how things might look if he did things just a bit differently.
With the Pirates playing out the string though the month of September, that would seemingly be the perfect time for someone of Bell’s nature to go out and try some of the more outlandish ideas he’s come up with this season that might have been just a bit too out there to work in while the Pirates were in contention.
Instead, Bell seems to be searching for something else: consistency.
At the Pirates have seen through much of the 2017 season, young players are often inconsistent at the major-league level. They adjust to a new level and then the league adjusts back, often resulting in large swings in performance, even for players with a year or two of experience.
What Bell wants to do this September is take advantage of the opportunity to look less like a young player and more like a veteran.
“It’s just continuing to show up every day ready to play,” Bell said. “I feel like my last 10, I haven’t really been pleased, but my last 100 are right there, so I’m just trying to keep my head up, get hits when I can. For the most part, I’m just looking to be in a position to put my bat head out in front and do damage”
Since the first of September, he’s hit .225/.295/.325, which has only fueled his desire to get back into the lineup every day and continue to work.
Bell has a bit of a different read on the final few weeks of the season than most of the rest of the clubhouse. Unlike many of the team’s younger players, he has 188 games under his belt, more than enough to feel comfortable at the level.
But he’s still just 25 and has a lot to learn. That’s why he’s appreciating the opportunity he’s been given to continue to play every day and work on his craft at the highest level.
Bell is also three games ahead of Andrew McCutchen for the team lead in games played with 143. If he plays in seven more, he’ll be the first Pirates rookie to break the 150-game plateau since Tony Womack in 1997. He didn’t bring that up, but it’s clear he’d like to finish what he’s started this season.
“Guys talk about finishing strong and not taking anything for granted,” he said. “You look up and see a guy like J-Hay (with a broken hand). We’re one pitch away from finishing the season. I just want to keep my head on straight and play the right way.”