Team USA calls on Padres' Bell
Reliever ecstatic about joining national team for Classic
PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego relief pitcher Heath Bell is headed to the World Baseball Classic as a late addition to Team USA, which has lost two closers to injuries in the last two days.
Bell was pulled aside by general manager Kevin Towers 10 minutes before the start of Monday's Cactus League game against Milwaukee and was told that a Team USA official had asked if he was willing to play.
"The only hesitation I had was if it was OK with [manager] Bud Black and if it was OK with Bals [Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley]. ... I wanted to know if they were OK with everything," Bell said.
The Padres gave Bell, who has inherited the job as closer from Trevor Hoffman, the OK to fly to Florida late Monday to join Team USA. Bell has been told that he will pitch on Wednesday in a scrimmage.
On Sunday, Twins closer Joe Nathan pulled out of the Classic with what was described as shoulder discomfort. Then on Monday, B.J. Ryan of the Blue Jays said that he was pulling out because he wanted to remain in camp to work on his mechanics.
That opened the door for Bell, who indicated he always wanted to represent his country. In fact, Bell sent in three different applications just to get the point across that he was indeed serious about playing.
"It's like a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve, who can't go to bed because Santa Claus is coming tomorrow," Bell said. "I've wanted to play for the U.S. team -- my whole life I've wanted to represent our country in a sport.
"For this to come out of the blue, it's awesome."
Bell has appeared in two games this spring, though only one was official. He allowed two runs in a charity game against the Mariners. Then on Saturday against Kansas City, Bell worked a scoreless inning and felt good about the number of changeups he tossed.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.