Heath Bell blew another save today on the team's final game before the All-Star break, and it sounds like Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen may be reaching his breaking point with regards to Bell's performance. In the post-game interview posted by Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi, Guillen starts off by expressing his frustration with the team's inability to live up to their expectations thus far. He then transfers to the Bell closer situation. The full interview is embedded below (you can skip to the Bell part here)
Here is a transcript of what Guillen said regarding Bell when prompted about he has stood behind Bell thus far this season.
I am, I am, I stand behind him. I stand behind him, but on the other hand, he got to be better than that. He is better than that. Is[sic] not get better, then I'll find a solution. I will find a solution, because is[sic] get tired to watch this, is very disappointing to watch this every day. And try to give this kid confidence, hopes, but you get to the point when, you know, we got to win some games. And games like that, it always hurt. And we've been hurting a lot. I have to make a decision, I have to make a solution, I will be drastic, I will do it. We're going to wait until the All-Star break and I'm going to pick who will be better out there to save close games. That's the bottom line, you can't do the job, we'll find somebody else to do the job.
These comments heavily imply that Bell may not be the closer coming out of the All-Star break when the Marlins start things up again on Friday against the Washington Nationals. Guillen said that the decision could be "drastic," but earlier in this season, Bell looked worse than he did today and the Marlins let him slide mostly. If you will recall, he "lost" the closer job prior to the series with the Cleveland Indians in mid-May, only to pitch one inning outside of the ninth and return to the closer job the night after. In that "demotion," he missed one save opportunity.
The truth is the team does not need to do anything drastic so much as they should do some thing logical.Unlike position players, who require the sort of playing time to break out slumps that would not be available to struggling players, relievers have a natural scale of importance in the majors. Position players like Gaby Sanchez who need to work on their swings with playing time naturally get demoted to get that time. But for relievers, it is much easier to find "less important" innings and opportunities to work and tinker while still contributing to the team. Bell can simply be moved back to the seventh inning and be pulled at any sign of trouble if the team really wants him to work through his problems. Meanwhile, the club can employ Steve Cishek or a combination of lefties and righties available at the time to close out ninth innings in close games.
Unfortunately, the position of "the closer" is not seen as a role but rather as a true position, and it seems teams like the Marlins still feel relievers need "experience" to manage the threatening waters of the ninth inning. So rather than thrust an inexperienced but good performer in Cishek in a temporary role in order to observe Bell in less critical outings, the Marlins have asked Bell to work through his problems in the ninth, when the game is at its most important. So far, he has shown glimpses, but in his last few outings he still relapsed back to the Bell of earlier in the year.
At the very least, it sounds like Guillen is ready to do what I mentioned above now after Bell's latest debacle. It remains to be seen whether Bell's problems are mechanical and fixable or simply a trend from his worst season last year to an even worse campaign in 2012.