ARLINGTON -- Returning to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for this weekend's series has been a bittersweet experience for Orioles reliever Rob Bell. The venue elicits fond memories of a Texas organization that badly wanted to establish Bell as a starting pitcher six years ago. It also rekindles the personal disappointment he felt after failing to make that happen. "I got a fair opportunity," Bell admits. "I just didn't perform."
Bell, who struggled back from nearly two full seasons in the Minor Leagues to claim a spot in the Orioles' bullpen last month, knows his career might have turned out much differently had he been able to meet expectations in Texas. Former Rangers general manager Doug Melvin (now with the Brewers) was the executive who showed the most faith in Bell. Melvin traded prized center-field prospect Ruben Mateo and a Minor League infielder to Cincinnati in June 2001 in exchange for Bell, then a raw but highly regarded Reds pitching prospect. Mateo was on the verge of becoming a bust, but the Rangers hoped Bell could become a young pillar of their starting rotation with a change of scenery. "I had a great opportunity to really take hold here," Bell recalled. "I came here and tried to establish myself, but I just couldn't. This was a great place to be and the organization really wanted me to succeed. But, sometimes, the right opportunity just isn't right for somebody at the time." Bell had difficulty working in one of the American League's toughest hitters' parks. He pitched 21 games (20 starts) in Arlington over 1 1/2 seasons and went 6-5 with a 6.57 ERA, allowing visiting hitters to bat .310 against him. "This is definitely a tough ballpark for a young, right-handed pitcher to pitch in," Bell said. "I did learn a lot. I had to learn how to pitch here." His confidence eroded, and soon Bell was having trouble on the road as well. His tenure with the Rangers spanned 35 games (33 starts) and concluded with a 9-8 record and 6.73 ERA. By March 2003, both Melvin and Bell's first Rangers manager, Jerry Narron, had been dismissed and replaced by John Hart and Buck Showalter. That duo was not so personally invested in Bell's success, and when it was apparent he would not make their team coming out of Spring Training, Bell requested and was granted his release. Bell went on to post a 14-13 record for Tampa Bay over the next three seasons before spending all of 2006 with Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The two wins he picked up in relief last week for the Orioles improved Bell's big-league record to 32-34. His opportunity now is to establish himself as a dependable middle reliever instead of as a starter. Bell knows, at age 30, this is better than no opportunity at all. But as he watches other pitchers start games this weekend on the Texas mound, he can't help wondering what might have been. Bynum lands on DL: Shortstop Freddie Bynum was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday after sustaining a Grade 1 strain of his left hamstring during the third inning of Friday's 4-3 loss at Texas. The Orioles filled the roster void by recalling switch-hitting infielder Luis Hernandez from Triple-A Norfolk. Hernandez, 23, caught an early morning flight from Indianapolis and arrived in Dallas-Fort Worth about six hours before game time Saturday. He said he hardly slept after getting the call late Friday night that his Major League debut was at hand. "I'm really excited," said Hernandez, a native Venezuelan who was hitting .273 after nine games for the Tides. "Everybody waits for this moment to get here." Hernandez, claimed off waivers from Atlanta last Oct. 12, started this season by hitting .241 in 68 games for Double-A Bowie. He was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk on June 27. Bynum, who was injured trying to beat out an infield grounder to first base, said the strain was the most severe muscular injury he'd had in his career. "It felt like somebody took a knife and stuck it in there," he said. "It's just really sore." Mora improving: Third baseman Melvin Mora (bruised left foot) missed his sixth consecutive start on Saturday, but manager Dave Trembley said he hoped the veteran would be back in the lineup for Sunday's series finale. Mora reported improvement after receiving what Trembley called a "secret remedy," some type of Latin food product provided by Rangers slugger and former Orioles outfielder Sammy Sosa. Mora even took ground balls during batting practice for the first time since last Sunday's injury. Rotation plans: The Orioles are expected to come out of the All-Star break with Jeremy Guthrie, Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera taking the first three starts Thursday through Saturday against the visiting Chicago White Sox. The post-break rotation plans will be finalized Sunday. Right-hander Steve Trachsel, on the disabled list since June 30 with a strained gluteus, is expected to throw a bullpen session before Thursday's game, which could determine whether he will be activated for next Sunday's series finale against the White Sox or the following series in Seattle. Briefly: It isn't often a player must come up with as many game tickets as his batting average, but Orioles shortstop and Dallas native Brandon Fahey (who entered Saturday batting .200), made arrangements for 200 family members and friends to sit in two different sections of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. ... Closer Chris Ray had not pitched since Monday, so Trembley told the reliever he would make every effort to use him both Saturday and Sunday with the All-Star break looming. ... Trembley also hopes to pitch Brian Burres in relief Sunday, since the rookie left-hander threw only 49 pitches and lasted 1 1/3 innings in his Thursday start against the White Sox. Up next: Daniel Cabrera (6-9, 5.15) is scheduled to face Texas righty Kevin Millwood (5-7, 6.54) in the finale of this three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.