PHOENIX -- San Diego closer Heath Bell, a man now expecting to be traded, said Monday that he would be fine working as a set-up man for a contender down the stretch this season as long as everyone understands that he will return to being a closer in 2012.
With St. Louis already believed to be hot on his trail, this revelation could spark even more interest in Texas (where Neftali Feliz is closing) and in New York (where the Yankees need help in front of Mariano Rivera).
Bell, a free agent this winter, briefly talked contract extension with the Padres this spring -- but those talks long since have been tabled.
When San Diego won 10 of 13 at one point in late June and early July, it delayed what appeared to be the inevitable. General manager Jed Hoyer certainly wasn't going to unload Bell, reliever Chad Qualls and outfielder Ryan Ludwick and lose what's left of the Padres' fan base at that point.
But a 3-7 trip to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to close the first half has left the Padres both 12 games under .500 (40-52) and 12 games behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West.
Worse has been the manner in which the Padres have been losing. They lost 1-0 to the Dodgers on Friday night despite loading the bases with nobody out in the ninth, then they lost 1-0 to the Dodgers on Saturday despite pitching a tag-team no-hitter for 8 2/3 innings.
In fact, the Padres were swept by the Dodgers over the weekend despite holding Los Angeles to 12 hits in the three games. It was a historic weekend: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team has held another to 12 hits while getting swept in a three-game series since 1966. Then, the White Sox won three over Washington.
"The last two or three months of the year, I'm good, I'll set up," Bell, who has 27 saves in 37 appearances, said Monday. "Because I think I showed everyone that I can close.
"But I definitely want to close next year."