Chad Bell has started a game in Frisco before as a member of the RoughRiders, it’s just been a while. Almost three years, in fact. Before being promoted to AAA Round Rock, the then-22 year old southpaw threw four innings on June 16, 2012. He wasn’t stellar, giving up three runs while striking out two to three walks in an abbreviated outing.
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But a promotion had been in the works, and he didn’t show anything that made the decision makers change their mind. A year that started in High-A Myrtle Beach ended two levels above for the Express.
He entered Spring Training in 2013 with an outside but very realistic chance to make the Texas Rangers Opening Day roster as a bullpen lefty. Unfortunately, before he had a chance to even pack his bags from Surprise, Arizona to Arlington he needed Tommy John Surgery.
2013 was lost for Chad Bell.
"“It was frustrating, for sure,” said Bell. “I was having such a good year in 2012, building off stuff, learning from all the pitching coaches. I learned something new at every level and advancing like that was great.”"
He returned from baseball’s most feared baseball procedure on May 13, 2014. Thrust back into the AAA level, he struggled badly, allowing five runs on six hits while recording just an out. The Rangers decided to alleviate Bell’s recovery from a physical and mental perspective, dropping back to Class A Hickory, a level he had not pitched in since 2010 as a 21-year old prospect.
His last stint there lasted all of eight games, quickly earning a promotion. More polished and on the road back to the Majors, the second go-around was just a quick six games.
His journey ended in 2014 where it started in 2012, high-A Myrtle Beach. This time though, it was very different. But Bell had made sure it would feel like a good different.
"“It’s been kind of a roller coaster since I got back. Some days you don’t feel as sharp or as recovered, but the more I get out there, the better it gets going.”"
Fresh off 26, Bell began his 2015 campaign in AA Frisco. Another step closer.
The RoughRiders elected to use him out of the bullpen to start the season. The lefty with plus secondary pitches rewarded the club by holding opposing batters to a .186 average in 12 innings of relief. He also tallied 19 strikeouts.
Due to the struggles of rotation member Victor Payano, the Riders put Bell back on the hill to start a game on April 29th at San Antonio. Almost three years –three long years of adversity and recovery- Chad Bell threw seven sparkling innings of two-run ball, the Missions mustering just three hits and also fanning six times against Bell.
His return to the rotation is now a permanent move, at least until he reaches AAA once more. There’s a special, twisted kind of poetry in a guy who was drafted three times going through this kind of three year process. A 25th Round Pick in 2007 by the Brewers, a 37th Rounder by Cleveland the following year and finally a 14th Round by Texas in 2009, Chad Bell was back throwing and throwing well.
A long journey indeed, but one that Bell reflects only inward on, examples Rangers pitching rehab coordinator Keith Comstock.
"“He showed the other young kids that you don’t have to get down on yourself. You don’t have to have the cookie-cutter depression for a week. You can go into it heads up.”"
The easy path is the one very lightly traveled, and for Chad Bell it will be a very, very cool thing as he takes the mound first in Frisco tonight.
The Frisco RoughRiders (11-13, 3rd in Texas League South) take on the San Antonio Missions (10-14, 4th; San Diego Padres Affiliate) tonight at 7:05.