Josh Bell must earn starting job this year

Shelton says competition at many positions including first base
Josh Bell & Colin Moran arm bump
Josh Bell & Colin Moran Photo credit Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - Josh Bell will be in at battle to start at first base this year.

Manager Derek Shelton said during a Zoom call on Tuesday that there is going to be a lot of competition in camp, which he said was fun and excites him.  He said he’s talked to his team about it.

He later said certain players are penciled in at positions.

“It’s pretty fair to say that Ke’Bryan (Hayes) is going to play third,” Shelton said.  “We have some other guys that are locks.  (Bryan) Reynolds is going to play one of the two spots in the outfield.  We know Gregory (Polanco) is going to play right.   (Jacob) Stallings is going to catch, (Adam)Frazier is going to play second and bounce out and play left.”

As for the guy who in their last full season, in 2019, hit 37 homers , 37 doubles, scored 94 runs and drove in 116?

“Josh (Bell) and Colin (Moran) are going to get Abs,” Shelton said.  “I mean we have two really good bats there.  That’s going to be a challenge without the DH.  We may have to get creative at times at how we functionally use those guys.”

The 28-year-old Bell is in his second year of arbitration, estimated by spotrac.com to make 6 million this year.  Bell hit .226 last season with 8 HR and 22 RBI, a .305 on-base percentage, .364 slugging and led the team in walks with 22.

Moran led the team in homers and RBI last year (two more HR than Bell and one more RBI) and it’s not unfair to make Bell compete at first base, but just two years ago he appeared to be the future of the franchise.

“Stay strong and stay consistent,” Shelton said is his message to Bell during the time away.  “I think all hitters have the want to tinker especially when things aren’t going the way they want.  Just consistency going forward.”

“I think the big thing for Josh this off-season was just to get away and refresh and come into Spring Training next year with a sound, strong body and a clear mind.”

He won’t be the only one having to battle, Kevin Newman hit .308 in 2019 and was top 5 in RBI, second in hits and stolen bases, but will have to fight for his job.  They don’t have a centerfielder yet and we haven’t talked about the pitching.

“I think we have young players that are hungry,” Shelton said.  “We are fairly transparent with our players.  This isn’t something that would be new to them.  When we sat down with them in their exit meetings we talked about opportunities.  We talked about competition.  We talked about the specific things that guys need to do to get better to put themselves in situations to play more.”

“I’m looking forward to it.  I think it’s something that is going to create competition in our camp.”