Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Closing time

Talking to this blog two months ago, Padres closer Heath Bell gave setup man Mike Adams an unusually strong endorsement. Consider it a clip-and-save quote in the event that the Padres trade either Bell or Adams this month. "Mike would be awesome as a closer," Bell said. "He's definitely got the demeanor for it. He knows how to pitch. You can put him into any situation, and he can get out of it. He has the best stuff of anybody in the bullpen. The only reason I'm closing and he's not is because I got here first."  It's typical for one teammate to praise another teammate, at least in public comments. But when pressed on the opinion that Adams has better "stuff" than him, the Loveable Kook laughed and said it wasn't close. "Mike's stuff is dirty," Bell said.

Obviously Adams knows how to succeed under late-inning duress. What's unknown about him as a potential closer is how he would respond to blowing a few saves. No one was better at nipping failure in the bud than Trevor Hoffman, who went nearly a decade without blowing consecutive save attempts. For what it's worth, manager Bud Black and Bell, impressed by his comebacks from shoulder and knee surgeries, said Adams would handle that just fine.

A former setup star, Bell  revealed a dimension to closing that he didn't foresee when he got the job.  "The hitters on your team ask you, 'Are you ready to go today? Can you give us another one?' even if you've pitched the last three days," Bell said, smiling. As a standout setup man, Bell didn't hear that as often. When a team is on a hot streak, players want to squeeze out as many victories as possible, and it's the closer who nails downs those victories. On top of everything else he's done well for the Padres, Bell has shown he can push through fatigue and grab that extra save or two.

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