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Bell feels team effort will put Bucs in 1st place

Rodriguez moonlights as leadoff hitter with Harrison sidelined
Special to MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Pirates first baseman Josh Bell had a breakout season in 2017, adding a dose of power to a lineup needing just that.

Bell hit .255 (140-for-549), smacked 26 home runs, drove in 90 runs and recorded an OPS of .800. He limited his strikeouts to 117. So far in 2018, he's hitting .244 (20-for-82), with a home run and 13 RBIs, second on the Bucs to Gregory Polanco's 15 RBIs.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Pirates first baseman Josh Bell had a breakout season in 2017, adding a dose of power to a lineup needing just that.

Bell hit .255 (140-for-549), smacked 26 home runs, drove in 90 runs and recorded an OPS of .800. He limited his strikeouts to 117. So far in 2018, he's hitting .244 (20-for-82), with a home run and 13 RBIs, second on the Bucs to Gregory Polanco's 15 RBIs.

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Bell batted cleanup in Saturday afternoon's 6-2 loss to the Phillies, the third in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The 25-year-old -- a second-round pick in 2011 by the Pirates -- hopes to keep Pittsburgh atop the National League Central after coming out of the gates strong to start off '18.

Pittsburgh (12-9) has now lost five if its last six and dropped out of first place in the NL Central with Saturday's loss.

"We started off real well, then hit a bit of a tough spot, losing two of three at home to Colorado and the first two in Philadelphia," Bell said. "It's time to get it turned around and get it going the way we need to, starting in the next game if we can.''

Bell is part of an eclectic group of players in the Pittsburgh clubhouse, along with outfielders Polanco and Starling Marte, catcher Francisco Cervelli, shortstop Jordy Mercer, newcomer Corey Dickerson and reserve David Freese that form a mix of young talent and team-first veterans.

It is a group that believes in itself.

"We really have a good lineup that can score,'' said Bell. "Our starters can do the job, and someone like Freese can do so much. We need them [to succeed]. We know we can win.

"It's just like a puzzle, and we have to see where it all fits.''

Bell has hit some astonishing homers, making his presence known with a 2016 grand slam off Adam Warren, then with the Cubs, which showed his power potential. He looks to become more consistent both offensively and defensively.

"I feel good with my swing offensively, and just want to avoid some of the slumps I have had," Bell said. "Let them be a few days, a week, [but] not two.

"I feel I'm starting to really see the ball well,'' said Bell, who snapped out of a 5-for-28 slump with two hits and three RBIs in the Colorado series finale on Wednesday afternoon.

As far as defense, Bell added: "I just want to be in [good] position at first base, and always make the plays I am supposed to make. I'm always working at it.''

It's a work ethic that Bell displayed as he advanced through the Bucs' Minor League system.

Rodriguez leading off
With Josh Harrison sidelined with a broken wrist, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle tried Sean Rodriguez in the leadoff spot, and the move paid immediate dividends. Rodriguez hit an opposite-field homer off Phillies starter Aaron Nola to start the game on Saturday.

Video: PIT@PHI: Rodriguez leads off the game with a home run

"Sean certainly brings the energy,'' said Hurdle. "We're giving him the opportunity."

Rodriguez took the assignment in stride.

"All I now is I'm the first batter in the game,'' Rodriguez said.

Musgrove update
Hurdle reported right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove, obtained in the Gerrit Cole trade with Houston on Jan. 14, had a successful bullpen session Friday. Musgrove has been sidelined with a right shoulder strain.

"He had no problems with the bullpen, so he'll throw another Sunday and a simulated game Wednesday at home,'' said Hurdle.

The Pirates hope to have Musgrove back sometime in May.

Pirates dad's trip
The Pirates have had players' and coach's dads and other relatives with them on this four-game trip. There are about 25 family members who were also with the club for the Colorado series in Pittsburgh.

Russ Davis, Dickerson's father-in-law, is one of the members on the trip.

"This has really been a treat to see how all this works,'' Davis said. "I had never been in a big league clubhouse before."

Jed Weisberger is a contributor to MLB.com and is based in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Josh Bell