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Bell opens D-backs chapter with patented flair

Bell opens D-backs chapter with patented flair

Bell opens D-backs chapter with patented flair
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Ian Kennedy almost dropped his breakfast burrito.

Paul Goldschmidt smiled. Everyone else standing near the putting green before the start of the charity golf tournament at Whirlwind Golf Club chuckled.

Sixteen months ago, Heath Bell shocked the crowd at the Chase Field when he sprinted in from the bullpen and slid into the pitcher's mound during 2011 All-Star Game. On Friday, he made another appearance to remember.

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Wearing a white, black and pink argyle sweater vest with a short-sleeved pink buttoned-up shirt underneath, Bell reintroduced himself to Arizona. Bell's black pants were short, his argyle socks were pulled high and his small black hat was just large enough to cover his head. He wore white-rimmed sunglasses and brown Vans shoes.

"I don't know much about him. I've heard little things about him," Kennedy said. "You can hear things, and they can be completely wrong. I'm curious."

Here's what everyone knows about Heath Bell: He was once a successful closer with the Padres, he struggled with the Marlins last year and he is slated to pitch in the seventh inning before David Hernandez in the eighth inning and J.J. Putz in the ninth for the D-backs next season. He has a reputation as a great teammate and a fun-loving man, but he is also known to rub teammates the wrong way at times with his over-the-top antics.

Here's what you should know: Bell has been working out with an assistant pastor this offseason to prepare himself mentally and physically for the upcoming season. He's going to give maximum effort whenever the club decides to pitch him. He looks up to Putz as a role model, he once idolized D-backs manager Kirk Gibson growing up in Southern California and he would like to avoid talking about his former manager, Ozzie Guillen, and the fallout in Miami.

Here's another thing: Bell's not sure what you make of him, and that's fine, too.

"It's one of those things that the fans will have to wait and see," Bell said. "Everybody has their own opinion, and that's fine. Even my teammates might have some opinion on me. I'm just going to go out there and play hard and hopefully have a lot of fun doing it."

Last month, the D-backs acquired Bell and shortstop Cliff Pennington in a pair of trades with the Marlins and A's. To acquire Pennington and infield prospect Yordy Cabrera, the D-backs sent outfielder Chris Young to Oakland. Cabrera was moved to the Marlins for Bell.

D-backs general manager Kevin Towers also acquired Bell in December 2006 when Towers was the GM of the Padres.

"My reaction to the trade was the same way it was when K.T. first traded for me when I was a San Diego Padre," Bell said. "He saw something that other people didn't see, and I'm happy to play for him. I just think every great player has a down year and it's really about how you react the next year."

Bell had his best years with the Padres from 2009-11, and he used that success to land a three-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins during the Winter Meetings last year. But he struggled in Miami and eventually lost his closer's job. He was also part of public spat with Guillen that divided the clubhouse. The Marlins wanted Bell gone so badly that they are still paying $8 million of his contract. Guillen was fired not long after Bell was traded.

"I think it was a little bit of a culture shock and it just didn't work," D-backs president Derrick Hall said. "It was well-known that he and his manager didn't see eye to eye, but we think that a change of scenery will be good for him. He's returning to the NL West, where he has always had success."

"He had a lot of pressure on him. He was that big signing," Hall continued. "He was putting the uniform on at the Winter Baseball Meetings, and the expectations were high. It was a lot to ask. It was a team under the microscope."

Bell wants to put Miami behind him, but he did offer some insight into his experience last season.

"My dad always taught me to learn at least one thing from every single person because it will make you that much better and that much stronger," he said. "I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself and how to go about things in the good times and the bad times. I think I'm that much stronger physically, mentally and spiritually."

How the lessons he learned with the Marlins will benefit the D-backs is to be determined. But at least two things are certain: You won't catch Bell sliding to the mound anymore, and he will almost always be the most colorfully dressed golfer during charity tournaments.

"I'll have to get myself a Diamondbacks color," he said. "What can I say? I listen to my wife and she puts out what I am supposed to wear that day because, apparently, I can't match."

The D-backs are hoping Bell is the perfect fit.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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