“My kids wanted me home.” And with that, Heath Bell has called it a major league career.
The 37-year-old was released by the Washington Nationals on Monday after struggling in spring training. Initial reports had him looking to catch on with other teams but in discussion with nbcsports.com, Bell was candid in his assessment of where he is and what he wants to do now:
“What’s more important: my kids or the big leagues? I’ve already accomplished more than I ever dreamed of. Now it’s time to help them accomplish their dreams.”
The three-time All Star (2009, 2010, 2011) also won the Relief Man of the Year Award twice in his career.
Originally drafted in the 69th round of the 1997 draft by the Rays, (did not sign) his career started as an undrafted free agent in the Mets’ system in 1998. In 2006, he moved on to the team his most notable contributions came with: the San Diego Padres.
Bell set the sixth-longest streak in MLB history from 2010 to 2011 when he converted 41 straight saves. At one point, Bell was the highest paid player in the organization. In his time with the Padres, he amassed a 27–19 record, 2.53 ERA and 134 saves.
After leaving San Diego as a free agent, he agreed to a 3-year, $27 million deal with Miami in 2012. He had limited success with the Marlins then eventually the Diamondbacks, and Rays. After a stint with Tampa Bay he signed minor league deals with the Orioles and Yankees and ultimately ended his career with the Nationals today.
Although signed to a minor league contract with invitation to spring training, many hoped for him to play an important late-inning role for the team, splitting time with former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen. His fastball had reportedly hit 90 mph in camp and he had the save in the team’s win against the Yankees on Monday night.
Bell was part of the Hope Leadership Foundation, a Christian-based movement that promotes sports and civic programs for inner-city kids. He finishes his career with a 38-32 record, 637 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA/1.269 WHIP in 590 games. He saved 168 games on 209 career opportunities.