DENVER -- The Pirates' newly fortified infield got stronger still on Wednesday with the return of first baseman Josh Bell from a left oblique injury. Bell went on the disabled list on July 28th after straining the oblique with a swing of the bat, and Wednesday was the earliest he
DENVER -- The Pirates' newly fortified infield got stronger still on Wednesday with the return of first baseman Josh Bell from a left oblique injury. Bell went on the disabled list on July 28th after straining the oblique with a swing of the bat, and Wednesday was the earliest he could return.
"It was a long 10 days for me, but I'm definitely happy to get back on the field today," Bell said before the rubber match with the Rockies. "It was good to get on the field the last couple of days. There were a couple of backhand balls that I hadn't taken in a week. But everything checked out. Check swings in batting practice. Taking check swings off the machine, [velocity] and stuff like that. Everything is holding up. I'm definitely happy to be all clear."
Over his last seven games before hitting the DL, Bell was hitting .375 (9-for-24). He's hitting .266 (94-for-353) on the season, with six homers and 49 RBIs. Jose Osuna was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Bell, who had a walk, an RBI and a run scored during the 4-3 win at Coors Field.
"He's done all the work we could ask him to do," manager Clint Hurdle said of Bell's rehab work. "He can't work any harder to get to the point to go out and play today than he has. The work he's done inside, he's got that machine cranked up and he's hitting balls with velocity, he's hitting balls with spin, right-handed, left-handed, he's out there early yesterday, he's taking balls off the bat, ground balls, making throws -- so he's ready to play."
Bell's quick recovery is linked to the core strengthening work he did shortly after experiencing the injury, according to Director of Sports Medicine Todd Tomczyk.
"Due to the short length of time, there probably wasn't a deconditioning or de-strengthening of this injury," Tomczyk said. "Obliques are used in every facet of life, from sleeping to walking to talking, so there really isn't a true rest period. Once the inflammatory cycle has ceased and the pain becomes tolerable, we like to activate the core with these trunk stabilization exercises to see if it exacerbates or makes the symptoms worsen."
Bell's return changes the infield dynamic, with a little less need for versatile players to step in at first. Francisco Cervelli started at first on Monday and behind the plate Tuesday and Wednesday, with David Freese starting at third on Monday, at first on Tuesday, and resting Wednesday, while Colin Moran rested Monday and started at third Tuesday and Wednesday.
"We'll watch how things develop and how we can best serve facing left-handed pitching," Hurdle said of the flexibility in the infield. "Cervelli's numbers are starting to get a little bit better against left-handers. They've been good career-wise, kind of like David's were early in the year where he didn't get off to a really good start.
"David's numbers have gotten back to a good place. [Jordy Mercer]'s numbers have gotten back to a good place. I believe [Cervelli]'s will as well. To find an opportunity for [Elias Diaz] to catch and swing against some left-handed pitching. I think it's something we may be able to keep in play."
Hechavarria makes Pirates debut
Mercer has been solid at short, but he got a day of rest Wednesday as newly acquired Adeiny Hechavarria started the game at shortstop. Hechavarria is also expected to give the Pirates another option at second base.
"My job is be the best defender I can be for the pitchers here in this organization and do my best," Hechavarria said. "Obviously, my main position is shortstop, but I feel very comfortable in the infield, anywhere you put me."
• Nick Burdi (Tommy John surgery) had his rehab paused due to a left quad strain.
"He has since rejoined the Indianapolis club and has resumed some light catch on flat ground," Tomczyk said.
• Chad Kuhl (right elbow and forearm) is on pace to start throwing soon.
"[Kuhl] continues to complete and perform advanced ballistic and biometric type activities." Tomczyk said, noting that he is anticipated to start throwing in the near future.
• A.J. Schugel (right shoulder) has made two rehab appearances for Class A Advanced Bradenton and is doing well. He is expected to advance to a higher level in the next seven to 10 days.
• Sean Rodriguez (abdominal muscle strain) was placed on the DL Tuesday to make room for Hechavarria.
"[Rodriguez] first identified this to us in Pittsburgh and was seen by our medical doctors," Tomczyk said. "It just got to a point where he wasn't able to perform and be himself on the field. Similar to Josh, we'll re-evaluate after about 10 days, but based on this abdominal wall strain, different than an oblique strain, we anticipate this might be a little bit longer than what [Bell]'s injury took."
• Jungho Kang (left wrist surgery) has reported to Bradenton for his rehab.
"He will be conditioning his lower half and get the stitches removed in two weeks' time," said Tomczyk. "Once the stitches are removed, he'll get clearance from Dr. Birdsong and it will be activity as tolerated."
** Owen Perkins ** is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.