PITTSBURGH — Josh Bell is indeed in Pittsburgh, but his stay will be temporary. The Pirates recalled their first base prospect just before Friday’s series-opening game with the Chicago Cubs.The Pirates did a similar thing with Alen Hanson’s three-day stint in Pittsburgh earlier this season when Starling Marte was on paternity leave. The current plan is for Bell to go back down before the Pirates start the second half of the season.
But Bell’s recall has a bit to do with strategy, as well. The Cubs are carrying only one left-handed reliever and manager Clint Hurdle hopes that he will be able to use Bell as a weapon off the bench.
“Hopefully he can look for an at-bat off the bench to help us win a game,” Hurdle said. “He’ll obviously get to experience the major leagues for three days, as well.”
Bell has a .324/.407/.535 line and has 13 home runs with Triple-A Indianapolis in 83 games this season. He is a switch-hitter, with a .922 OPS against left-handers and a .951 against righties this season.
Regardless of match-ups, bringing up the current International League leader in slugging could provide the Pirates with another dangerous bench bat to go with David Freese and Matt Joyce.
“He’s gotten a little bit better as the season has gone on,” Hurdle said. “He’s really driving the ball. The power has shown up.”
While his current value to the Pirates may be as a bench bat, he projects long-term as a starting first baseman, and as a converted outfielder, his primary focus this seasons has been improving his defense.
“First and foremost, I’ve [been working on] getting my feet underneath me defensively and continue to build on that foundation at first base,” Bell said. “Then from the offensive side of the ball, I’m just trying to drive the ball more consistently, which I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of that, and continuing to try to be a tough out in the box.”
GLASNOW STILL AN OPTION
To call up Bell, the Pirates optioned starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, but he is still an option to remain in the rotation going forward. The Pirates simply wanted to utilized the extra bench spot for the series against the Cubs.
With Gerrit Cole close to returning, the Pirates will have some decisions to make about the makeup of the second-half rotation.
“We’re sitting down [Friday] with Neil [Huntington] and we’ll script out the second half and the pitching rotation going out,” he said. “There are some things outside of [Glasnow’s] control. He showed up well.”
In talking with him today, Hurdle said Glasnow can be more aggressive, and can use the changeup more.
KANG REMAINS QUIET
Returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since news broke that he is being investigate for sexual assault by the Chicago Police, third baseman Jung Ho Kang still would not comment on the investigation.
“I’m just thinking about baseball right now,” he said. “Anything I can do to help the team win.”
GOING TO REHAB
• Francisco Cervelli will take batting practice this weekend with the Pirates and then will take the All-Star break off before the Pirates re-evaluate his progress while recovering from hamate bone surgery. He’ll likely begin a rehab stint after the break.
• Gerrit Cole will throw his second start with Indianapolis Sunday at Columbus. After throwing three innings in his first appearance, he will have a five-inning, 80-pitch outing Sunday. If all goes well, Cole will be on track to return to the rotation after the break.
• Ryan Vogelsong will make a 5-inning, 80-pitch rehab start with Double-A Altoona in Erie on Sunday and then head home for the All-Star break.
“I have everything at home I need [to work out and continue training], so I’ll be able to do what I need to do,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ll take a little breather.”
The Pirates are planning on stretching out Vogelsong back to 100 pitches and then see where he fits in from a need standpoint. Vogelsong can’t come off the disabled list until July 23.
Center fielder Starling Marte came in second in the National League All-Star Final Vote to Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants. Marte could still make the game as an injury replacement. Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler is on a rehab stint this weekend and may be forced to miss the game.