It has not been a good season for Miami Marlins closer Heath Bell. After signing a 3-year, $27 million contract over the offseason, Bell is struggling in South Florida. He has blown 4 saves in 11 chances, and could have more blown saves were it not for the fact that Guillen pulled him midway through ninth-inning meltdowns on Friday and Saturday.
Guillen has reiterated his intention to let Bell close games for the Marlins, but has managed to hurt his feelings in the process. On Friday, after Bell gave up two runs on three hits while retiring just one batter in the ninth inning of a 7-6 win, Guillen criticized Bell's pitch selection against San Francisco's Joaquin Arias.
"That's bad pitch selection," he said of the breaking ball called a ball on a 2-1 count. He later deposited a 3-2 pitch into the outfield for a double.
On Saturday, Guillen added, "I want him to be aggressive with his fastball. That's the best pitch he has. The breaking ball is not working every once in a while. Just give people your fastball. I will take that."
Even so, Guillen still wants Bell in the closer spot, even if he has a perfectly good Steve Cishek sitting in the bullpen with a 1.27 ERA in 21 appearances.
"He's my guy," Guillen said of Bell. "Nobody's going to change my mind. But, last night for some reason, my gut feeling wasn't what I wanted. There's nothing harder in baseball than when you take your pitcher out, especially your closer, because you don't want to take their confidence."
Bell did not take kindly to Guillen's nit-picking, and made sure to let everyone know he did not ask for any pitching advice.
"Anybody can second-guess me anyway they want," Bell said. "I've pitched a certain way -- and the key word is 'pitched' -- and I'll throw any pitch at any given time. And I'm not going to back down on my pitching style. I'm not going to second-guess some of the pitches I throw."
Bell also said he and Guillen have not talked to each other since Spring Training, a departure from his last manager, Bud Black of San Diego. Black, a former pitcher, talked to Bell frequently when he was with the Padres.
Bell did say, "I like [Guillen] as a guy, even before he was my manager. I had some conversations in spring training with him, but I really haven't sat down and talked pitching with him."
Either the outspoken Guillen inadvertently hurt Bell's feelings, or he is trying to send a subtle message that he alone will decide who is closing, and if Bell wants to keep his job, he might reconsider his pitch selection going forward.