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Bell focusing on swinging at better pitches

MLB.com @adamdberry

PHOENIX -- Since being moved out of the cleanup spot, Josh Bell has focused on seeing pitches -- from the dugout and at the plate.

The Pirates bumped Bell down in the lineup over the weekend, batting him sixth on Saturday and Sunday then slotting him into the seventh spot against left-hander Patrick Corbin on Monday night. More than anything, the Bucs wanted to remove some of the pressure on the slumping switch-hitter and help him focus on swinging at better pitches.

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PHOENIX -- Since being moved out of the cleanup spot, Josh Bell has focused on seeing pitches -- from the dugout and at the plate.

The Pirates bumped Bell down in the lineup over the weekend, batting him sixth on Saturday and Sunday then slotting him into the seventh spot against left-hander Patrick Corbin on Monday night. More than anything, the Bucs wanted to remove some of the pressure on the slumping switch-hitter and help him focus on swinging at better pitches.

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Bell responded by drawing three walks, reaching on an infield single and scoring twice in Sunday's 7-1 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, then working three more walks in the Pirates' 9-5 loss to the D-backs on Monday. The 25-year-old first baseman said he's taking advantage of the opportunity to see how opposing pitchers approach left-handed-hitting teammates like Colin Moran and Corey Dickerson.

"I've just been expanding a little bit more. I feel like when I start drawing walks and when I start being known as a guy that doesn't swing out of the zone, that's when I do my most damage," Bell said. "If I come out of the gates trying to do damage and I'm swinging at balls out of the zone, that's a lot of early soft contact -- that can't happen."

Bell is seeing fewer strikes overall this season and swinging at a higher percentage of pitches outside the zone than he did the previous two years. After a strong rookie campaign, he is slashing .236/.325/.367 with four homers and 34 RBIs in 66 games.

"I think it's pretty evident how most teams' plan of attack has been against him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Hopefully he's getting a better feel for it. He's definitely seeing the ball better."

Injury updates
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (bruised jaw) went through a series of tests on Monday to determine his availability for the series opener at Chase Field. Cervelli exited Saturday's game early after taking a foul tip off the left side of his face mask. In the middle of his workout on Monday, Cervelli stopped by his locker and said he was feeling good.

Elias Diaz made his second straight start behind the plate. Jacob Stallings, who was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday, remained on the roster as a backup option.

Left-hander Enny Romero (left shoulder impingement) is scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Tuesday.

Minor moves
Adam Frazier, who was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday, reported to Indianapolis and started at second base on Monday. The Pirates needed a spot on the roster for Stallings, given Cervelli's uncertain status, and sent down Frazier because he had Minor League options remaining.

Frazier has struggled at the plate this season, hitting .237 with a .673 OPS in 56 games, and he fell behind Sean Rodriguez as the Pirates' preferred backup option at shortstop. The Bucs hope to get Frazier's bat back on track with more consistent playing time in Indianapolis.

"When you talk about each player, there's one player that makes sense on a couple different fronts. It's not easy," Hurdle said. "If he's having the kind of season he was having last year at this time, it'd be a different conversation."

Infielder Jung Ho Kang also made his first start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday night, batting third and playing third base, after hitting .417 with three homers in seven games for Bradenton. The addition of Kang and Frazier further crowds a packed Indianapolis infield that also includes Jose Osuna, Max Moroff, super-utility men Christopher Bostick and Pablo Reyes and top prospects Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer.

Osuna started at first on Monday with Moroff making his second career start (and his second in five days) in left field, Newman at shortstop and Reyes in center field.

Draft signings
The Pirates signed seven of their Draft picks on Monday: Right-handers Aaron Shortridge (fourth round), Michael Flynn (sixth), Logan Stoelke (ninth) and Brad Case (17th), left-hander Zach Spears (eighth), outfielder Brett Kinneman (seventh) and catcher Zac Susi (12th). The Bucs assigned six of them to short-season Class A West Virginia and sent Case to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

According to MLB.com's Jim Callis, Pittsburgh signed Kinneman for $215,500 and Spears for $171,800; their bonuses matched the full slot value assigned to their picks.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Josh Bell