Miami reliever Heath Bell was critical of manager Ozzie Guillen in a radio interview Monday, the latest in a series of turbulent comments for the disappointing Marlins to deal with as their season winds down.
”It’s been an interesting year with Ozzie,” Bell told Miami station WQAM. ”That’s pretty much all I’ll say about that. It’s just been really interesting to have him manage.”
However, pressed with more questions, Bell kept talking, eventually saying the Marlins need a manager ”that everybody respects and looks up to.”
Bell’s struggles were one of the biggest issues for the Marlins this season. He signed a $27 million, three-year contract over the winter, then eventually lost the closer role after a disastrous start to the season, which included an 8.47 ERA after his first 21 appearances with Miami.
For the year, Bell has 19 saves in 26 opportunities, with a 5.40 ERA in those games. He has appeared 43 times in non-save situations, going 3-0 with a 5.06 ERA.
Bell’s seven blown saves were the second-highest total in the majors this season entering Monday. Two players had blown eight opportunities.
”You know, I stunk in April, plain and simple,” Bell said in the interview. ”I said I stunk, I worked hard, I busted my butt. I think the second half, I’ve had a tremendous second half. I’m not closing, I know that. But I just kept my mouth shut because I want to regain what I had, and I feel like I can’t do that.”
Miami was off on Monday. At 66-87, the Marlins are in last in the NL East and have the sixth-worst record in the majors — a far cry from what the team expected when it went on a spending spree last winter.
The Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Bell to contracts worth a combined $191 million. But Bell was a bust as the closer, and the Marlins were plagued by poor hitting, especially in the clutch.
Bell said he wants to be back with the Marlins ”without a doubt” next season. Bell’s ERA since the All-Star break is 3.12. Prior to the break, it was 6.75.
His statements came one day after Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria called his former manager, current Atlanta skipper Fredi Gonzalez, ”a colossal failure” with the team. Loria was responding to statements Gonzalez made to The Miami Herald, which quoted Gonzalez saying ”there’s not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough.”
The Marlins will finish with a losing record for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Their only two winning seasons in that span came under Gonzalez.
Guillen is completing the first year in a four-year contract with the club. He said last week that he is not worried about where he’ll work next season.
”That’s the last thing going through my mind every day, if I’m going to have a job next year,” Guillen said Friday in New York, before a series where the Marlins were swept by the Mets. ”I’m going to have a job. I don’t know if it’s managing the Marlins, but I will have a job. I don’t know if it’s managing in the big leagues, but I will have a job.”
The Marlins are wrapping up their first season in a $634 million retractable-roof ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The season started coming apart when Guillen was suspended for five games in April following comments praising Cuban leader Fidel Castro, infuriating the Miami-area Cuban community.
”Things can only get better,” Bell said. ”They don’t always stay bad.”