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Sunday, April 22, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.

Marlins' Bell gets his best coaching advice from wife | Larry Stone notebook


Heath Bell was despairing after blowing his first two saves as a member of the Miami Marlins, who signed him to a three-year, $27 million contract.

Bell recovered to convert his next two chances, and credits his wife, Nicole, for helping him make the necessary emotional repairs.

According to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Nicole was back home in San Diego and couldn't sleep after watching her husband blow the second save. She eventually got up at 3 a.m. to write him a long note she posted on Facebook.

"It was inspirational, how far I've come," Bell said, of the letter. "How far we've come as a couple. Where our daughter has come from because she has Down's syndrome. Our first home was a mobile home. I was a nobody. I spent so many years in the minors, undrafted.

"She was like, 'Look how far we've come. Don't worry about all the other stuff that's going on,' that I'm not going to tell you guys about. 'You've overcome so many things, don't let this get you.' It was pretty long. ... It really got me thinking."

Sometimes, you don't need a pitching coach.

Runs scarce in Philly

The Phillies are really struggling to score runs without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, both out with serious injuries. In their first 15 games, the Phillies scored just 40 runs and had been shut out twice, held to one run three times and scored two runs three times. That led to Philadelphia being in last place in the NL East after Wednesday's games for the first time since April 20, 2007.

One of many who are struggling is 41-year-old Jim Thome, off to a 1-for-13 start with seven strikeouts.

Chicago's chilly reception

The Mariners aren't the only team having attendance issues. The White Sox, despite an encouraging start, drew just 38,817 for the first three games of a series against the Orioles. Thursday's game attracted a paltry 11,267.

"The Blackhawks are playing," pitcher John Danks told reporters. "I don't blame people. It's cold outside and the Blackhawks are in the playoffs. ... Just a victim of the circumstances here."

Notes and quotes

Theo Epstein took over as president of the Cubs this season amid much fanfare, and hired his former Red Sox assistant, Jed Hoyer, away from the Padres to be his general manager. Another former Epstein underling, Josh Byrnes, replaced Hoyer as San Diego's GM, while Ben Cherrington was promoted to Epstein's old job in Boston.

Well, all three teams in the Epstein management triumvirate are struggling. After Saturday's games, the Red Sox were 4-10, the Padres 4-12 and the Cubs 4-11 — a combined 12-33.

• The Cubs reached Sunday last in the majors with five homers. But two of those were by ex-Mariner Bryan LaHair, off to a .353 start.

The Cubs have an interesting situation developing, because one of their top prospects, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, is hitting .367 with seven homers through 15 games at Class AAA Iowa. The Cubs have said they envision LaHair as a first baseman only (even though he has outfield experience), while Rizzo is also limited to first. Makes you wonder if LaHair could eventually be trade bait.

• The Dodgers' Matt Kemp, with his seventh homer on Thursday against the Brewers, had more by himself than the entire roster of not only the Cubs but also the Phillies (six), Pirates (six) and Nationals (six) at that point.

Peter O'Malley, rebuffed in his efforts to repurchase the Dodgers after selling them in 1998, says he may put in a bid for the Padres.

"Our family gave the Dodger pursuit everything we had," O'Malley told the L.A. Times. "We were serious suitors. It didn't happen. I support the new owners, and I want them to do well. ... The Padres have only been on the market a number of days. I have not talked to (Padres owner) John Moores. We're considering it."

• The cut fastball of Arizona reliever Bryan Shaw received high praise from Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero.

"It's as good as (Mariano) Rivera's," Montero said. "Right now, it's harder than Rivera's. It cuts a lot, and it cuts hot. It's just tough."

Dylan Bundy, the Oklahoma high-school pitcher picked fourth in last year's draft by the Orioles, is tearing it up at Class A Delmarva. In his first three outings, he worked three innings each time and didn't give up a single hit. In nine total innings, in fact, the only base runner off him was via a walk, and Bundy struck out 15.

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