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Anxiety puts Bell on the DL
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published May 15, 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Devil Rays reliever Rob Bell flew home to Tampa Saturday night after he was put on the 15-day disabled list for what the team called personal and psychological reasons.
Bell said he has dealt the past few weeks with anxiety attacks that manifest themselves at the ballpark and have gotten "progressively worse." He said the time off is necessary to overcome what he insisted will be a "short-lived thing."
Bell said his agents are exploring possible treatment options and a plan may be in place by Monday. The Rays called up reliever Seth McClung from Triple-A Durham to take Bell's spot.
"I've never dealt with this before," Bell said by cell phone before his flight. "But I'd be hard-pressed to believe that I had physiological changes in my body that can't be fixed. I can't believe that."
Bell said he has for the past three weeks dealt with symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, breathing problems and negative thoughts. He said they exploded Tuesday on the mound against the White Sox during an outing in which he threw five pitches, one to the backstop, two in the dirt and another that almost hit batter Paul Konerko.
"I was just overwhelmed with anxiety," Bell said. "My heart was beating out of my chest. I couldn't focus. I couldn't feel the baseball. I've never dealt with anything like this. It's tough and I'm quite embarrassed by it."
Manager Lou Piniella said he had no idea what Bell was going through before the right-hander called him to the mound and took himself out of the game.
Bell, 28, said he is not dealing with any off-field issues: "I just need to take a step back.
"What he needs," Piniella said, "is to get away from it for a while and relax."
Bell, 1-1 with an 8.25 ERA in eight games, including three starts, said he could not identify a trigger for his anxiety, but said he first noticed it after being demoted to the bullpen April 21. But even that, he said, is difficult to figure.
"I've dealt with setbacks and steps forward before in my career," the five-year veteran said. "I don't know why I'm dealing with this."
Bell said the plan is to "relax" for four or five days, pitch some bullpen sessions then go to Durham for a few rehab assignments.
Piniella said that is what he would like to see, but added the organization will give Bell all the time he needs. In fact, Bell said the conversation he had Thursday with Piniella eased is mind.
"Lou was very sympathetic," Bell said. "He said to do whatever it takes to get on the right page. It meant more to me than anything I can explain."
"What I told him basically was I was concerned about him more than anything else," Piniella said. "We want him to get well and to forget about the baseball part of it now just for his own good. What he's going through, it's tough. It's a hard thing. I feel for Rob. I hope he overcomes it quickly."
Brazelton not in Durham
Starter Dewon Brazelton apparently did not report to Durham on Saturday. Tampa Bay's opening-day starter was demoted Thursday and had 72 hours to report. Calls to Brazelton's cell phone were not answered.
Brazelton, 24, was sent down after Thursday's brutal outing against the White Sox in which he went 42/3 innings and allowed five runs with six walks to fall to 1-7.
The right-hander could face a fine for not arriving in Durham. More likely, though, is suspension or placement on a restricted list.