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Bell emerges as reliable reliever in Tigers' loss

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – By the end of the night, which was actually early the next morning, Chad Bell’s four scoreless innings of work was reduced to a side note by all the calamity that ensued in the Tigers’ 13-inning, 13-11 loss to the Orioles Tuesday.

Truth is, though, that game never sees Wednesday morning without Bell stopping the bleeding after the Tigers and starter Matthew Boyd dug a 7-1 hole.

“We don’t have an opportunity to win the game if Bell doesn’t pitch as well as he did for as long as he did,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

Bell has been a revelation since being recalled from Toledo on May 1, especially to Ausmus who didn’t put him into a game for nearly a week, hoping to find a soft situation to cut his teeth on in the Major Leagues.

“Lloyd (McLendon) had him last year in Toledo and spoke very highly of him,” Ausmus said. “We didn’t see the guy Lloyd had talked about in spring training. Maybe now we are seeing what Lloyd had hinted at.”

Bell has now pitched 6.2 innings in three outings, without giving up a run. He’s struck out five with two walks. He left to a rousing ovation after four scoreless innings Tuesday.

“It was great,” he said. “But in the end, that’s what I’m here to do. If I come in, in that position, I’m here to get outs for as long as I can, and hold them right there so our lineup can do what they did and fight back.”

Until Tuesday, Bell’s toolbox contained a firm, 94-mph fastball, a change-up and what he simply calls “a breaking ball.” It is a slower pitch, a hybrid curveball-slider. He broke out a new tool against the Orioles – the Tigers slider, which is a harder slider that has similar action as a cut-fastball.

“I’ve been working on it, messed around with it a lot in the past,” Bell said. “It’s a cutter-slider kind of pitch. I’ve been throwing it a lot in flat-ground (sessions), talking to other guys on our staff that throw one, too — just getting some pointers from them and seeing how they do it.”

Justin Verlander and Boyd are among those that use the pitch, which pitching coach Rich Dubee is a proponent of.

“A couple of things they said really felt good to me, and really this was the first game I threw it in,” Bell said. “Like I said, I’d thrown one in the past, but this was the first game this year I’ve thrown it in. First time off the mound.

“It felt good. There were a few good ones, a few bad ones, but I think it’s something that, if I keep working on, it could be a good pitch, especially to lefties.”

He struck out Chris Davis with the pitch, which, given his two late home runs, was no small feat.

“We hadn’t seen that pitch from him,” Ausmus said. “We’d seen his bigger breaking ball, but that hard slider was something we were unaware of. Even the catchers didn’t know about it. That looks like it could be a good pitch for him.”

So, on a night when two valiant comebacks were for naught – from 7-0 down in the third and 11-8 down in the 12th – on a night when two J.D. Martinez home runs (including a dramatic grand slam) were wasted, at least the Tigers may have found themselves another reliable bullpen piece.

Though, given this club’s bullpen history — fingers crossed.

Twitter @cmccosky