Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays designate Heath Bell for assignment


Heath Bell’s increasingly disappointing run at the back of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen appears to have come to an end, likely much sooner than most would have anticipated. The team designated the veteran reliever for assignment on Sunday morning, recalling Nathan Karns to take his place on the active roster, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.




Bell initially came to the Rays as part of a three team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds during this past offseason. Tampa Bay parted with a pair of minor leaguers in Justin Choate and Todd Glaesmann (both of whom went to Arizona in the deal) and wound up receiving both Bell and catcher Ryan Hanigan in return. Hanigan’s been a worthwhile addition to the team, batting .269/.347/.463 through his first 24 games and helping to stabilize a catching position that’s mostly underwhelmed for years in Tampa Bay. Bell, however, hasn’t been quite as effective.

Through 13 appearances Bell has thrown a total of 17.1 IP, while posting a 7.27 ERA and 1.846 WHIP. He’s allowed twice as many hits (24) as batters he’s struck out (12). Tampa Bay, an organization known for getting the best out of relievers, just hasn’t been able to find the same magic with Bell.

Once among the underrated closers in baseball, Bell’s star has fallen significantly since he signed a free agent deal with the Miami Marlins prior to the 2012 season. Since he’s made 155 appearances with a 4.91 ERA, 1.507 WHIP, and an alarming 10.3 H/9. He saved 34 games in that stretch, but has been traded twice with his team picking up a hefty portion of his contract just to facilitate the move. His remaining salary will almost assuredly allow him to clear waivers, leading to the Rays releasing him. It’s tough to predict who may take an interest on him at that point, though for a minimal cost another organization might be willing to take a chance.

Karns, meanwhile, has primarily been starting in the minor leagues but will join the Rays bullpen initially. The team is in need of depth after some lengthy games in recent days, including an extra inning affair Saturday in New York and a double header in Boston just a few days prior. He too has struggled since joining the Rays organization in a trade over the winter from the Washington Nationals in return for Jose Lobaton. Through 8 starts at Triple-A he’s pitched to an 8.20 ERA and 1.823 WHIP. An increased walk rate (6.2 BB/9) and home runs (2.1 HR/9) have been the main culprits for those struggles, but there’s still reason to think that he’ll be able to straighten those concerns out. His future, however, is presumably in the rotation so it will be interesting to see how long the Rays are willing to use him in relief before needing to stretch him out again.

Update: It would appear as though Karns is only up for the day to give Tampa Bay some length in their bullpen. Robbie Knopf at Rays Colored Glasses notes that the team will likely option him back down to the minor leagues following Sunday’s game in favor of Brad Boxberger.

Tags: Heath Bell Nathan Karns Tampa Bay Rays

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