Heath Bell Designated for Assignment; Nate Karns Recalled | The Process Report

Heath Bell Designated for Assignment; Nate Karns Recalled

Another short outing from a starting pitcher forced the Rays to make a move in order to provide their relievers with some relief. Prior to Sunday’s game Heath Bell was designated for assignment. Nate Karns was promoted from Triple-A to take his place. Both pitchers were acquired via trade this offseason.

Bell, 36, came to the Rays along with Ryan Hanigan in a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Reds. Initially it appeared as if Bell would compete for the ninth inning opportunities; however, subsequent acquisitions pushed him down depth chart. The former closer served more of a mop-up role with Tampa Bay and was forced into extended duty on several occassions. He threw 40 or more pitches in four of his 13 appearances. For context, he threw 40 pitches in a single game just once in the previous five years. After averaging 16 pitches per appearance last year, he threw nearly 30 pitches each time out in 2014.

The advanced workload, while a necessity at some point, did not serve Bell well. He was charged with 14 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings, allowing 24 hits and eight walks. As a means to get Hanigan from Cincinnati without surrendering meaningful a prospect, the Rays assumed about $5 million of Bell’s salary for 2014. They will be on the hook for that money unless a trade can be worked out in the next 10 days.

Nate Karns was acquired in February from the Nationals in exchange for Jose Lobaton. The brawny Texas Tech product spent most of the spring with the big league club before he was optioned to Durham to start the season. He made six starts for the Bulls before receiving Sunday’s call. Armed with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a knuckle curveball that grades out around 70 on the 20-80 scale, Karns struck out 33 batters in 26 1/3 innings in Durham. The knocks on Karns stem from spotty control and an underdeveloped third offering. We will have to see how much progress has been made on an off-speed pitch, meanwhile, the control issue appears to have followed from Washington. In addition to giving up six long balls, he handed out 16 free passes. Although he remains a candidate to start, his immediate job will be to provide depth to an overworked bullpen.

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