Bell wasted no time after Classic
New Padres closer returned to camp hours after semifinal loss
PEORIA, Ariz. -- On his way out of Dodger Stadium on Sunday, shortly after Team USA lost to Japan in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic, Heath Bell ran into Anthony Suzuki, the interpreter for Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima.
"He asked me when I was leaving, when I was going back to Peoria," Bell said. "I said I wasn't leaving until the morning. He said that [Seattle outfielder] Endy Chavez of Team Venezuela was taking a car back to Arizona."
That's when the wheels started spinning in Bell's head, which soon enough, led to a new set of wheels spinning -- the ones on the Lincoln Town Car that Bell hired to shuttle him the five or so hours back to the Padres' training facility.
"I wanted to get back here and get ready for the season," Bell said. "I'm going to be the closer. And I think it's important that I be here."
Bell was picked up at the hotel Team USA was staying in around 11:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, hours after Team USA dropped a 9-4 decision to Japan in the semifinals. Japan went on to defeat Korea in Monday's title game.
Bell didn't exactly pass the time on the drive by napping in the back of the car, despite the late hour. Instead, Bell said, he bought his driver dinner.
"I told him I was starving and that he had to eat ... that he couldn't fall asleep," Bell said. "So then we stopped at Del Taco. I got a couple tacos. I think he had a burrito."
Bell and the driver talked most of the way and Bell loaded up the driver's iPod with a handful of songs off his own iPod. The two later stopped for coffee before rolling into Peoria at about 4:30 a.m. MST.
Two hours later, Bell was back in the Padres' clubhouse. He didn't pitch in Monday's game against the Royals, but worked out and watched the game.
"I watched the whole game," Bell said. "I talked with [manager] Buddy [Black] and [pitching coach Darren] Balsley. I was excited to be back."
As for his World Baseball Classic experience -- Bell had a 7.36 ERA in four games -- it was an experience Bell won't soon forget. After all, he submitted his name twice for the event and was finally picked after injuries sidelined two other relievers.
"I really wanted to win," Bell said. "I was having way too much fun, representing my country. But when it was over, I wanted to get back here as soon as possible."
That meant forgoing a morning flight for a late-night ride through the desert -- with some Del Taco on the way.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.