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Saturday May 27 2017
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Bell proving to be full-time asset to Pirates lineup

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For a minute, let’s help Josh Bell fill out the “ideal candidate” portion for his job application with the business of baseball.

Team player.

Good with lumber.

Can move objects over 330 feet with relative speed.

Will operate leather with minimal error.

Follows instructions with consistent results.

To hell with the cover letter, Josh.  The job is yours.

With the Pittsburgh Pirates falling against the breaks—standing seven-games below .500, losing seven of its last nine games—there hasn’t been much to gloat about for an offense that ranks second-to-last in Major League Baseball.

Bell, however, has been one of the few silver linings in the early 2017 offensive campaign, adding punch, power and energy to an otherwise flickering two-watt bulb of a lineup. 

The 24-year old switch-hitting first baseman might only be hitting .246, but his stick has come along drastically as the season has progressed, clubbing a team-best seven home runs (two in the last four games), and boasting a rookie-best .366 on-base percentage.

Bell is currently tied with Cody Bellinger and Hunter Renfroe for most home runs by a rookie, and tied-24th for most in the National League.

“In the minors, I never really looked at myself as the power guy.  Right now, the numbers are there,” said Bell.  “I try to look at myself as an overall tough out.  It doesn’t really matter where you put me in the lineup, I’m going to make it tough on the pitcher and wear him down.  Wherever they put me I will be happy, and I won’t change my game plan no matter where I’m at.”

The willingness to accept any role in the lineup and yield solid, promising power numbers is what makes Bell the ideal handyman to a lineup in desperate need of a shot in the arm (and he’s probably proficient in Microsoft Word, too).

“I couldn’t care any less where I’m at, as long as I’m in the lineup,” the rookie implored.  “As of late, I’m being a lot more selective, so as long as the pitches are coming to me, it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting second or sixth, it is just trying to get the next man up in a better situation.  That’s just my game.”

With a slugging percentage of .479, and an OPS (not Operational Performance System, for those who are still clinging to the job interview theme) at .812, Bell has been able to maintain those power numbers from both sides of the plate, hitting three of his home runs off lefty’s.

Still, for as much as Bell has been scattered throughout the lineup, he has yet to hit from the four-hole, and took his swings in just one game from the three-hole since joining the Pirates.

“I haven’t been there, so I don’t know what that’s like,” Bell said of the power spot in the lineup.  “I hit third once.  I’ve been second and fifth.  Wherever I play is wherever I play.  I know the three hole, the four hole, it comes with a different precedence in the box.  Pitchers have more emphasis of taking care of those guys, and that’s something that, if whenever my name is called that’s cool, and I’ll do it.  I don’t know what it is like yet.”

Clint Hurdle also feels confident about where Bell has operated from in the lineup so far, this season.

“With a young hitter like this, with all of things he’s fighting every day, I think he is good right now.  I think he’s carrying his own load,” skipper said.  “What those guys are bringing, they should be bringing in the spots they’re in right now.  We haven’t considered putting Josh in the cleanup spot.”

Positioning doesn’t seem to matter much, as Bell has hit consistently in every spot he has been in this year.  And there is no concern with the youngsters glove, which has committed just one-error in 244 total chances at the east corner.

Overall Bell has been an opportunistic, enthusiastic, productive and effective ballplayer in his short stint in the big leagues so far.  There should be no doubting the goal-oriented, budding star's employee of the month-ceiling. 

The perfect candidate for the job, you might say.

For a lot of young student-athletes, sports are essentially a hobby. They represent an activity to boost a college résumé or a tool to stay active. But for many young athletes, sports mean much more.
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