The Pirates have announced that exciting young hitter Josh Bell has undergone knee surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee. He is expected to require a two-to-four-week down period before resuming baseball activities, which could put his Opening Day status in doubt.
It seems that the procedure is a fairly minor one; certainly, there’s little reason to think it seriously clouds Bell’s outlook for 2017 and beyond. It’s true, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes on Twitter, that this is now the third recent injury to that joint, but all have been relatively minor. While it’s disappointing that the surgery did not occur until this late stage, Pittsburgh explains that Bell felt discomfort during offseason workouts and was examined upon reporting the issue to the club.
Bell, 24, cracked the majors for the first time in 2016. While the switch hitter didn’t show much power, Bell exhibited a rare mastery of the strike zone, recording 21 walks against just 19 strikeouts over 152 plate appearances. He ended with a strong .273/.368/.406 batting line, setting the stage for a much more prominent role in the season to come.
The Bucs are well positioned to deal with any absence, though the injury adds to the creeping uncertainty in the corner infield. Presumptive third baseman Jung Ho Kang is a question mark after a regrettable DUI incident — though he’s expected for camp. David Freese and John Jaso remain on hand to pick up any slack, and there’s depth beyond that. The 40-man roster includes versatile fielders such as Alen Hanson, Adam Frazier, and Gift Ngoepe, while Jason Rogers and Joey Terdoslavich are among the non-roster possibilities to fill some time at first base.