Bell saw his first game action of the spring in a minor league game Thursday. He played four innings in the field and got a plate appearance in each inning, collecting two singles and grounding into two double plays. His biggest tests came in the first inning when he slid hard on a play at the plate as he tried - and failed - to score from second base on a single, and in the fourth inning when he ranged hard to his right and made a nice backhand stop, followed by an accurate throw while his momentum took him in the opposite direction.
"I got a lot of running in," said Bell, who felt the pain recur in his back during a batting-practice session March 1. "I had to make a (tough) play in the field and got four at-bats, and it felt great. I was confident going in that my body was ready."
The Phillies have had some skepticism about Bell's ability to stay on the field. It's why they signed veteran infielders Abraham Nunez and Alex Gonzalez this off-season. Both have seen extensive time at third base in Grapefruit League games while Bell convalesced.
Bell hopes to shake off the rust in time to take his job back from that duo come Opening Day.
"I need to get at-bats and get myself ready," Bell said, "but I'm confident about it."
With Nunez, Bell, Gonzalez and Tomas Perez crowding their infield, it was impossible for infielder Matt Kata to make the big-league club, so this week the Phils tried to slip him through waivers in the hopes that teams wouldn't be ready to commit to Kata as a 40-man roster option.
It didn't happen. Kata was snagged by the Cincinnati Reds. Although the Phils would have liked to have kept Kata in the organization as a versatile, Triple-A infielder, it nonetheless accomplished what they wanted - an opening on the 40-man roster.
How they will use that opening remains to be seen. It gives the Phils room to add an established reliever if they want to trade a young prospect for such an arm. It also makes room for non-roster players such as reliever Aquilino Lopez or catcher/infielder Chris Coste in case either is deemed worthy of joining the Phils on Opening Day.
News and Notes:
- Cory Lidle pitched in a minor league game and focused on throwing first-pitch off-speed pitches. The tactic worked well in the first three innings before he was touched for three runs in his final frame. Lidle, the Phils' number three starter, said he will use his regular-season repertoire in his final three spring training starts.
- Catcher and infielder Chris Coste is getting extra work behind the plate in minor league games as he tries to make the Phils' roster as a bench player. The Phillies have Mike Lieberthal as a starter and Sal Fasano as a backup, but if Coste can make the team, it could provide a way for the Phillies to take more playing time away from Lieberthal if his abilities at the plate continue to erode.
- Jimmy Rollins, who had 41 stolen bases last season, has yet to attempt a steal this spring. The Phillies, who were second in the NL with 116 steals in 2005, have only four in six attempts this spring. Opponents have stolen 16 bases in 24 attempts.
- Bobby Abreu returned to camp after a miserable, 3-for-20 performance in the World Baseball Classic. Abreu is expected to be in the lineup Friday when the Phils play the Devil Rays.
- Gavin Floyd is getting a great deal of exposure this spring, even though the odds are extremely slim that he'll be with the Phils when they break camp. The Phillies are in need of an experienced reliever to offer depth in the seventh and eighth innings and could be willing to deal the fourth overall pick from the 2000 draft for assistance.