Pirates' Bell says he'll be ready for opener

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 12 hours ago Two weeks after having minor knee surgery, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell on Monday said he expects to be ready for opening day. Bell is throwing and taking dry swings without problem and Monday...

Pirates' Bell says he'll be ready for opener

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Updated 12 hours ago

Two weeks after having minor knee surgery, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell on Monday said he expects to be ready for opening day.

Bell is throwing and taking dry swings without problem and Monday got a positive report after a check-up with Dr. Patrick DeMeo. Bell hopes to be cleared to hit off a tee by the end of this week.

“The initial game plan was two to four weeks (of rehab),” Bell said. “I'm on the second week now, so we'll see how I progress. It's just a matter of being cleared and getting back on the field.”

All 39 pitchers and catchers reported as required Monday for the start of spring training. Bell was among several position players who arrived three days early. The first full-squad workout is Friday.

The Pirates will open the regular season April 3 in Boston against the Red Sox.

“I've done a ton of (offseason) preparation, so I'm not worried,” Bell said. “Even though I haven't swung the bat in two weeks, I had my swing down (before the surgery).

“I feel like it's just going to be a timing thing more than anything else, which is what spring training is for. Trust my swing, trust my mechanics.”

As a rookie last year, Bell played in 45 games and batted .273 with a .775 OPS. He's in line to be the everyday first baseman this season.

In late January, Bell felt discomfort while doing a “fire hydrant” pose in yoga class and was unable to straighten his leg. He had surgery Feb. 1 to remove a loose body in his left knee.

Bell injured that knee twice before. He had surgery in 2012 to repair a torn meniscus and had a bone bruise in 2014.

“The doc said everything looks good in there now,” Bell said. “I feel better than I did before.”

Bell plans to keep yoga as a part of his regular training routine.

“I see it play in my swing, in my arm mechanics and my ground-ball mechanics,” he said.

The added flexibility should come in handy at first base, especially when it's necessary to stretch for errant throws while keeping one foot on the bag.

“Hopefully, I can pick a ball out on a full split this season,” Bell said with a grin. “I'm going to definitely work for it. That's something I see on SportsCenter, and I'm like, ‘Man!' Two years ago, your couldn't ask me to get anywhere close to that. But now I'm getting there, for sure.”

Notes: Catcher Chris Stewart, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in September, was cleared to resume full baseball activities. “I feel awesome,” Stewart said. “No problems, no setbacks.” Stewart's workload will be monitored closely this spring, and he won't necessarily get extra playing time while Francisco Cervelli is playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. ... RHP Gerrit Cole, who had three stints on the disabled list last year, is full-go for the start of spring. Cole said his offseason was relaxing, albeit eventful. “I got married, honeymoon, good holidays,” he said. Cole and his wife, Amy, spent their honeymoon in the Caribbean. Did he play catch on the beach? “No, but we still worked out quite a bit,” Cole said with a laugh. “I'm lucky, my wife is athletic.” ... RHP Lisalverto Bonilla was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds. He was designated for assignment last week to open a roster spot for Pat Light. ... The Pirates will find out Tuesday if RHP Nefi Ogando, who was DFA'd on Friday, makes it through waivers. If he clears, Ogando will attend big league camp as a nonroster invitee.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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