Padres' Bell shows he can handle bat
Closer's sac bunt Saturday paves way for three-run frame
SAN DIEGO -- After a successful sacrifice bunt that proved important to the Padres' 7-4 victory over the Dodgers on Saturday, closer Heath Bell was beaming with confidence in his ability to handle a bat.
"I definitely think I'll be in the Home Run Derby," Bell said.
Bell, who is tied for the Major League lead in saves with 23, will have to settle for a spot in the All-Star Game -- as a pitcher -- though his bunt didn't go unappreciated.
"It was really big to get those guys over. He doesn't ever really take batting practice. But the first pitch ... he laid it perfect," Padres pitcher Josh Geer said. "You never really see a closer hit. He has his own bats, so I bet he was excited that he got to use them."
Ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Padres got two runners on with one out and Bell, who entered the game in the top of the inning, coming to bat. It was Bell's first plate appearance with the Padres since joining the team in 2007.
"I went out there and I asked [Dodgers catcher Russell] Martin that, 'If I hit a homer to left, do you think I'll get a standing ovation?'" Bell said. "Even though I knew I was bunting."
Bell dropped down a bunt that paved the way for a three-run inning.
"[Pitching coach] Darren [Balsley] and I talked about it in the dugout ... if Heath gets up and there's a bunting situation, what is the chance of him putting up a good bunt? Darren said about 80 percent, based on what we saw in Spring Training," San Diego manager Bud Black said.
"All of the drills that we go through in Spring Training, Heath is one of the best bunters we have."
Prior to Saturday, Bell was 0-for-5 as a hitter, all with the New York Mets. He said that he had faced closers like Todd Jones, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner.
"[Black] said don't expect anything and just to go out and do your best. And I said, 'I'll surprise you.' So I wanted to surprise Buddy," Bell said.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.