CLEVELAND -- Before the Pirates began a series at Wrigley Field on June 8, manager Clint Hurdle had a conversation with first baseman Josh Bell. After a strong rookie season, Bell was hitting just .237 with a .679 OPS, and the Bucs were about to bump him out of the
CLEVELAND -- Before the Pirates began a series at Wrigley Field on June 8, manager Clint Hurdle had a conversation with first baseman Josh Bell. After a strong rookie season, Bell was hitting just .237 with a .679 OPS, and the Bucs were about to bump him out of the cleanup spot for the first time.
During their conversation, Hurdle said, he shared a memory from his career.
"There were a few players when I played that we would talk about, in our locker room before the game, that you do not have to throw this guy a strike. Do not throw him a strike," Hurdle said. "Challenge yourself to not throw him a strike and see what happens. Especially if there's runners on base, don't throw him a strike."
Hurdle asked Bell to think about that concept and, by extension, the idea of forcing pitchers to throw him strikes by not swinging at pitches outside the zone. Over the following three days, Bell drew seven walks in 11 plate appearances. Since June 9, Bell has the same number (20) of walks and strikeouts. He's now hitting .272 with a .764 OPS on the year.
"I feel like I've kind of simplified my overall approach to every at-bat. I'm not swinging out of the zone as much," Bell said after hitting his sixth home run of the season on Tuesday night. "Definitely in a good place, just not trying to do so much with the baseball, just trying to let them come to me and do damage with what's given rather than forcing the issue with trying to do damage."
That plate discipline is not uncommon for Bell. He finished 2016 with more walks than strikeouts for the Pirates, and he had an equal number (65) in the Minors in '15. Getting back on track in that department has seemingly put the switch-hitter in a better place at the plate overall, as he entered Tuesday batting .336/.431/.466 over his last 37 games, then went 2-for-4 in a 9-4 win over the Indians.
"He's had an opportunity to see some different things this year, and I think he's starting to respond very professionally to them in the box," Hurdle said.
Sadler glad to be back
Right-hander Casey Sadler, called up from Triple-A on Monday, said on Tuesday he was excited to return to the Majors after spending the last three years and three months in the Minors or rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
"It feels like a long time ago," Sadler said, referring to his last big league appearance at Miller Park on April 12, 2015. "A long time ago. But it's worth it."
Sadler, 28, was with his wife and father-in-law in Atlanta on Monday when he got the call from Triple-A manager Brian Esposito. He felt he had already overcome the odds once, making the Majors in 2014 despite being a 25th-round Draft pick in '10, so he never lost faith that he'd return as he did on Monday.
"I had 100 percent confidence I was going to be back at some point," Sadler said. "It's nice to stay healthy long enough and be there when they needed me. … It's just nice to be back, finally."
Dickerson receives alumni honor
Left fielder Corey Dickerson on Tuesday received the Pirates' 2018 Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, the only MLB award voted on by former players.
"We are proud to announce Corey has earned this award," MLBPAA chief executive officer Dan Foster said in a statement. "He embodies the qualities of the Heart and Hustle Award with his desire to win and respect for the game."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.