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Bell makes big splash in Orioles debut

Bell makes big splash in Orioles debut

SARASOTA, Fla. -- If Josh Bell keeps hitting like this, there will be questions Orioles manager Dave Trembley will have to hear frequently concerning the third-base prospect's chances of cracking the Opening Day roster.

"I hope he makes it tough," Trembley said of the club's pending decision. "Good for him. That's what they are all here for."

But no one made an opening argument quite like Bell, who homered twice and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in three runs in his Orioles debut in Wednesday's 12-2 victory over the Rays. While Rhyne Hughes also went deep twice, Hughes doesn't carry the "Oriole of the future" label Bell has been toting since he was acquired in a deal with the Dodgers just prior to the Trade Deadline.

"When I walked in and saw my name [on Wednesday's lineup card], I got amped up a little bit," Bell said. "Just being over here is a good feeling. I think I've been smiling ever since I've been here."

Upon watching Bell's first few batting practices earlier this week, hitting coach Terry Crowley said his initial impression of the 23-year-old was one that fit the hype. A switch-hitter, Bell is listed at an intimidating 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and the slugger has made significant defensive strides at third base.

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

In his first at-bat in an Orioles uniform, Bell sent Matt Garza's third-inning pitch flying over the 375-foot sign in right field at Ed Smith Stadium. Bell did it again, this time from the right side of the plate, off reliever Heath Phillips in the sixth.

"Sometimes you have one of those days," Bell said. "I feel good. I was just trying to hit the ball hard.

"I feel good, especially coming over after being with the Dodgers for five years and coming to an organization and being able to perform in front of everybody."

Bell's pair of homers also put to rest perhaps the one knock on his offensive game: His right-handed hitting. Before 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.

"Any time that I've gotten negative press about it, I just take it as a motivator to work harder," Bell said.

"Last year, I never really got comfortable right-handed, and it just made me work that much harder this offseason. I know I can do it, I want to continue to do it and I'm going to continue to prove that I can."

Bell might just prove some other things along the way.

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

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