Prospect Bell making strong impression

Prospect Bell making strong impression

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The hot corner has been a hot topic at Orioles camp this spring, as reacquired veteran Miguel Tejada is working on making the switch from shortstop to third base.

But just two lockers down from Tejada, 23-year-old Josh Bell is quietly doing some acclimating of his own. The third-base prospect, acquired in a midseason move that sent George Sherrill to the Dodgers, Bell's transition to his first Orioles camp has drawn raves.

"Right now, to me, he looks like the prospect we thought he was," hitting coach Terry Crowley said.

Although Crowley acknowledges the early Spring Training emphasis is on the pitchers, his initial read on Bell, mostly from batting practice and cage sessions, is impressive.

"I see a big, strong switch-hitter; [the] ball jumps off his bat," Crowley said. "He's very aggressive, he's a big presence in the batter's box. He's a big guy, and these are all things that I like."

Listed at an intimidating 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Bell said he came into this year's camp in better shape than in previous springs; a fact which has made a discernible difference.

"You can really tell when you come into [camp] in shape and when you don't," Bell said. "The way you feel after the day, you can just tell."

Bell said his soreness has decreased and he feels "lighter on his feet," making it easier for him to stop and start as he progresses through the team's different workout stations.

"[He's a] big man, but he must have worked hard because he came in lean," manager Dave Trembley said upon watching Bell's first workout. "He looks in good shape. He's got power from both sides of the plate and an easy swing."


"I see a big, strong switch-hitter; [the] ball jumps off his bat. He's very aggressive, he's a big presence in the batter's box. He's a big guy, and these are all things that I like."

-- Terry Crowley, on Josh Bell

Projected by many to be the O's third baseman of the future, Bell was selected by the Dodgers in the fourth-round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft with the intent to move him from shortstop to third. As his time at the hot corner increases, Bell has made significant defensive strides.

He committed 38 errors in 168 chances in his first full season at third in 2007, versus 24 errors in 194 chances last season.

"Shortstop is more just athleticism, you see the ball because it's a longer ways," Bell said. "Third base is just more reaction. So I think, with anything, like hitting, it's all about experience and the more repetition and practice, [the better I'll be].

"It's a lot different. You don't really get that feel [practicing] like it is in the game. The game is faster, it's all about your reaction and how quick you are moving to the ball."

In addition to learning as much as possible from his veteran teammates and coaches, Bell is using this spring to try to continue to improve his right-handed swing. Prior to the trade, Bell hit .335 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs in 230 at-bats against right-handed pitching at Double-A Chattanooga. In 104 appearances facing lefties, he batted .212 with no homers and seven RBIs. At Double-A Bowie, Bell hit .349 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 83 chances as a left-handed hitter, versus a .129 average with a homer and five RBIs in 31 chances from the right side.

"Last year, I never really got comfortable the way it was broken up," Bell said. "I'd hit left-handed all game and then they would put a lefty in, so the situations I was put in right-handed last year, I just never really got comfortable. ... I've changed [my approach] in the offseason. I definitely feel a lot better prepared this year, so it's looking good."

Although Bell and Crowley have yet to talk at length and lay out a plan, Crowley plans on speaking to some of Bell's former coaches and identify if there are areas that "need to be tightened up."

For now, Bell is enjoying the way his early batting practice sessions have gone and is looking forward to some game action at third base.

"[Everything] feel great," he said.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.