After eleven years in the big leagues, Heath Bell has made his last sprint in from the bullpen. Heater signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in December, but was released after Tuesday's game. The 37-year-old reliever initially planned to look for a chance with another team, but as Corey Brock reports for MLB.com, a call home changed his mind.
"I felt I still had it," he said. "I was doing pretty well, not the best."
But when he called home with the news, his 11-year-old son, Reece, had other ideas.
"He wanted me home. I said, 'All right, I'm coming home,'" Bell said.
Bell got his start with the Mets in 2004, but was never fully appreciated in New York. After the 2006 season, he came to San Diego with Royce Ring in exchange for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson (yeah, so that was a steal). The 2007 season saw him break out, replacing Scott Linebrink as the Padres' setup man and putting up a 2.02 ERA in 93.2 innings pitched, striking out 102 batters in the process.
Two years later, Trevor Hoffman, then the all-time saves leader, left San Diego, and Bell was the obvious replacement. With big jorts to fill, Heater stepped up. He led the league with 42 saves in 48 opportunities and went to the first of his three All-Star Games. And he got even better in 2010, picking up 47 saves in 50 opportunities with a career-best 1.93 ERA.
Bell signed a three year deal with the Marlins following the 2011 season, but didn't stick there, moving to Arizona in 2013 and Tampa Bay for the start of the 2014 season. The Rays released him and he ended up bouncing around the minors a bit, but never found a team willing to give him another shot at the bigs.
Heath Bell was a larger than life personality, and we'll miss seeing his antics at the ballpark, but we expect to see the San Diego resident around baseball in some capacity or another for a while to come. Congratulations on your retirement, Heater!