Barely an hour after getting the save in the Nationals 7-6 victory over the New York Yankees, Heath Bell was released by the Washington Nationals. Given the fact that the news broke just after Bell had one of his most successful outings of the spring, the timing is odd, to say the least.
Per James Wagner of the Washington Post, Bell’s fastball had clocked in at 90 mph recently, which just serves to make the news more odd. The Nationals signed Bell to help the back end of their bullpen after they traded Tyler Clippard to the Athletics and dealt Ross Detwiler to the Rangers. While he wasn’t expected to get closer duties with Drew Storen on the roster, it was hoped he could help contribute along with Casey Janssen in the mid to late innings.
Unfortunately, Bell did not have a strong spring training. While he was impressive on Monday and looked as if he still had some of his old velocity, Bell struggled in most of his outings. Over the 6.1 innings he pitched, Bell allowed four earned runs on seven hits. He walked five and struck out seven. He finished with a record of 0-1 with one save.
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As I’ve said before, the timing for the move seems odd, since Bell just had a good game, but a look back at his last four appearances will show that Bell wasn’t necessarily getting better as the spring wore on. After allowing no earned runs over his first three appearances, Bell fell apart against the Astros on March 15, allowing three runs in his one inning of work to earn the loss. He would allow another two runs (only one earned) two outings later.
While this may be the end of his road with the Nationals, Bell still hopes to play baseball for a Major League team this season, per William Ladson of MLB.com.
Nationals Make More Moves to Minors
The release of Heath Bell wasn’t the only move that the team made on Monday. They also optioned RHP Taylor Jordan to AAA Syracuse. Both infielder Matt Skole and RHP Evan Meek were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Over the course of the spring, Jordan appeared in four games, including one start. He pitched eight innings with an ERA of 3.38, giving up three earned runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Meek pitched 4.2 innings over five games with four earned runs surrendered, three walks, and four Ks.
Matt Skole appeared to be having the best spring of the three players moved today. In the 17 spring games in which he appeared, Skole hit for a line of .409/.480/.727 with two homers and seven runs batted in.