When Josh Bell learned that the Orioles had traded for Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds last week, he said he wasn't surprised -- and wasn't particularly discouraged, either.
"I've not put too much thought on it, personally," Bell said in a phone interview from his offseason home in Arizona. "I knew that they were going to try and bring someone in. And my job is the same, to go out in spring training, do my best and prove somebody wrong."
Bell, 24, was immediately thought to be the organization's third baseman of the future when the Orioles acquired him in July 2009 in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever George Sherrill. Bell got his chance last season, when he was promoted in July and handed a starting spot in August after the club traded Miguel Tejada to the San Diego Padres.
His defense was an upgrade over Tejada's, but offensively, he was overmatched. He hit just .214 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 159 at-bats. Bell struck out 53 times while walking twice. By the end of September, Bell was on the bench while the Orioles looked at other third base options, including Robert Andino.
"I got a taste of [the majors] last year and my hitting wasn't where I wanted to be, but I felt good defensively, and I feel I can play at that level," Bell said. "And it's a matter of getting the opportunity of doing what I think I can do, whether it be for the Orioles or someone else. Personally, I'm just making sure I am ready for it."
Reynolds is just 27, under club control for at least two more years and is considered a solid defender with legitimate power. Assuming the Orioles sign a free-agent first baseman, which is their current plan, Bell, theoretically, would be blocked at third and first for at least next year.
Yet Bell said he's not changing his thoughts about this February.
"I am approaching spring training the same way I always have, and that's to break camp with the big league team," Bell said. "That's always my mindset in spring training."
The Orioles told him they wanted him in better shape in 2011 -- and he has been working toward that goal. A big man at 6 feet 3, he said his weight reached 242 pounds at the end of last season. He's down to 230, thanks to two-a-day workouts in Arizona. He often hikes in the morning and works out in the evening. He also said he is eating better.
"I tend to gain weight in-season," said Bell, who ideally would like to be at 220. "It's a little hard to do the little things I need to do during the season. In the offseason, I have more control over running and getting in shape. It's just my body type, I gain weight in season, so I'm making sure I come in at a good weight and then get on a program in-season to stay at that weight."
On Monday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Bell talked on the phone. Showalter said he wanted to hear how the conditioning was going and he also wanted Bell to know the organization still believed in him. The worst case scenario for Bell, Showalter said, is that he plays every day at Triple-A in 2011. The best case is that he makes the team out of spring training, playing some corner infield and maybe some designated hitter.
"He has lost 12 pounds. I just don't want him to stop with that momentum just because we traded for Reynolds," Showalter said. "There's still a way for him to make our club and still a way for him to impact us, and I just wanted him to understand this is still a good fit for us, especially if he comes into camp with that hunger and desire to make the team."
When Bell was dealt by the Dodgers, his only organization, he learned then that baseball is a business and he is not just playing for one team. If he shows the ability and attitude, he's confident he'll have a job somewhere.
"Every year, people are getting traded here and there, and the best thing you can do is look at it personally, think what's best for you and make sure you are ready to compete and take the individual team out of it," Bell said.
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