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April 14, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: After three years away, Bell earns first pro win.


4/14 Cup of Coffee: It was a busy night on the farm, with three very close contests and one that was very much not so. Brian Van Belle turned in a gem to kick off his 2023 season to lead Portland against a top prospect in Manchester. Grant Gambrell and Jedixson Paez also made their season debuts for Greenville and Salem respectively. The two squads split extra-inning contests, with Brock Bell (pictured) earning his first winning decision as a professional for Salem. It was a night to forget in Worcester, who was trailing Columbus by a 15-0 deficit by the fourth inning.

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The Clippers scored four in the first, five in the second, and three in the third and fourth apiece as the WooSox were routed Thursday night. Little went right for Chris Murphy, who went one inning, allowing eight runs on seven hits, walking three, striking out one, and hitting a batter. The offense managed just three hits against Guardians' top pitching prospect Tanner Bibee and a pair of relievers. David Hamilton continued his strong start to the season, going 1 for 4 to bring his average to an even .400. Daniel Palka had Worcester's only extra-base hit, ripping a triple in the seventh and coming on to score the team's lone run.

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Worcester wasn't the only team to draw a top pitching opponent, as top Blue Jays phenom Ricky Tiedemann took on Portland. Tiedemann came as advertised, striking out nine of the 11 batters he faced, but Brian Van Belle more than matched up with him. Van Belle fired six scoreless innings in his first appearances of 2023. He scattered three hits, striking out four without issuing a walk. The former Miami Hurricane pounded the strike zone, needing just 58 pitches to get through the six frames, throwing 42 of them for strikes. Luis Guerrero pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his third save of the young season.

At the plate, Tyler McDonough and Cam Rosier had two hits apiece, with both players adding a pair of stolen bases. Tyler Dearden delivered the game's key hit, a two-run, eighth-inning single that plated Phillip Sikes and Nick Yorke

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It was a long night at Fluor Field, as a 90-minute rain delay preceded a 3-hour and 49-minute, 11-inning contest that saw the Drive fall short. Grant Gambrell got the start for Greenville, his first since suffering an ankle injury back in August 2021. The right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits in 4 2/3, striking out six and walking four. Casey Cobb went a scoreless 1 1/3 in relief, followed by a scoreless Aaron Perry frame, but the Tourists reached Maceo Campbell for three runs in the eighth to tie things up. Jordan DiValerio tossed a scoreless ninth but surrendered one in the 10th and two in the 11th, suffering the loss.

Alex Erro was the offensive star for Greenville, going 3 for 4 with a walk, two doubles, two runs scored, and an RBI. Kier Meredith saw his first action of the season, reaching base three times and stealing three bases. Scorching-hot Chase Meidroth had a light night by his recent standards, going 1 for 5 with a walk. Blaze Jordan ripped a three-run double for his first extra-base hit of the year, while Marcelo Mayer continued his early-season skid, going 0 for 5 to fall to just 2 for 20 in five games. 

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Salem prevailed in extra frames to come away with its fourth straight win. Jedixson Paez turned in a solid outing in his first start of the season for Salem. The 19-year-old righthander allowed a run on two hits in four innings, striking out four and walking one. The story on the mound, however, was 2019 seventh-round pick Brock Bell, who pitched scoreless ninth and tenth innings to earn his first career professional win. He surrendered one hit across those two frames, striking out one and walking one. Before this season, Bell had not appeared in-game action since 2019 due to the missed COVID season and a second Tommy John surgery.

Miguel Bleis continued his hot start, going 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI. Daniel McElvany was also 2 for 4, delivering a solo home run in the seventh inning and scoring a pair of runs. Ronald Rosario also went deep for Salem. Luis Ravelo and Cutter Coffey had two hits apiece, and Roman Anthony had a double and a walk out of the leadoff spot.

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Player of the Day: With acknowledgment of the strong outing by Brian Van Belle, probably the day's best effort by objective measure, the nod goes to Salem's winning pitcher Brock Bell. It has been a long road back for Bell, the son of former major league All-Star Jay Bell. A two-way player in Junior College, he suffered a torn UCL during his sophomore season, necessitating Tommy John Surgery. He returned focused on pitching and impressed enough in the role that Boston took him in the seventh round and gave him a well-over-slot $465,000 bonus. He had a solid pro debut in 2019, posting a 2.45 ERA in 14 2/3 innings across nine starts. The momentum came to a halt with the lost 2020 season, and he then suffered a second UCL tear in May 2021, resulting in the need for Tommy John revision. Entering the year without having thrown a pitch in a live game since 2019 and with only 30 innings total in the previous five years combined, it is an accomplishment that Bell has returned to the mound at all. Bell's first professional win makes him an easy Player of the Day selection.

Photo Credit: Brock Bell by Kelly O'Connor