Ozzie reiterates stance on closer Bell

Ozzie reiterates stance on closer Bell

Ozzie reiterates stance on closer Bell
MIAMI -- Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen wanted to sleep on the team's closer situation following Saturday's win -- the second game in a row Heath Bell was removed in the ninth -- despite giving Bell another vote of confidence.

On Sunday morning, Guillen awoke with the same stance: Bell will remain Miami's closer.

"It's going to be hard for us to win if Heath Bell is not our closer," Guillen said Sunday. "My vote of confidence is there, but maybe a lot of people don't believe that. I'm the manager; I'm not going to kick the guy when he's down."

Bell has labored in save situations since signing with the Marlins in the offseason. He has an 8.47 ERA and has recorded saves just seven times in 11 opportunities -- which doesn't include Friday's and Saturday's ninth-inning struggles that earned him his first two holds of the season.

Bell was brought in to close the ninth inning of a three-run game Friday, only to give up a leadoff double and allow two runs before he was pulled with one out in Miami's eventual 7-6 win. A similar situation occurred Saturday, when Bell was able to record only one out in the ninth inning of a three-run game before Guillen pulled him with the bases loaded and the potential winning run at the plate.

Guillen spoke with Bell prior to Sunday's series finale against San Francisco and reiterated to him that he is still the go-to guy, and should the situation present itself Sunday, Guillen said Bell would be available to pitch despite appearances the past two days.

The key to getting Bell back on track, Guillen said, is to keep building his confidence. Guillen said he has been impressed by the closer's stuff this season, but just wishes he threw more strikes. Bell has walked 14 batters this year, compared to 10 strikeouts.

In the meantime, Guillen stressed that he doesn't mind taking the fall if Bell continues to struggle.

"It's easy to criticize. It's easy to bury somebody when he's down," Guillen said. "I think my job and my coaching staff's job is to continue to believe in him. ... I got to go by it and I will bite the bullets -- from the fans, from the front office, from anybody. That's what I'm here for -- to bite the bullet for my players."