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Washington Nationals’ Davey Martinez loves having Josh Bell in lineup...

Davey Martinez talked on Saturday afternoon about what he’s seen from Josh Bell early this spring...

Washington Nationals v Houston Astros Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Josh Bell got a night off on Saturday, after the 28-year-old, switch-hitting slugger collected hits in five straight games (over which he was 7 for 15), with home runs in three in a row.

Friday night, after homering in the third straight game, (and for the fourth time overall in this spring’s Grapefruit League action), Bell, (whose 2 for 3 night at the plate left him with a solid .357/.424/.929 line in 12 games), talked about the work he’s done in Spring Training to get to where he is at the plate right now.

“Last few games I’ve been able to barrel up some fastballs,” Bell explained. “First few, I was kind of struggling with that, so just kind of working in the cage, shortened up the swing a little bit, just trying to be on time for the heater.”

“For us, and we talk about this all the time, he has to be on time every pitch,” Bell’s relatively new manager Davey Martinez said when he talked about the now-former Pittsburgh Pirates’ first baseman’s approach at the plate and the work he’d done with hitting coach Kevin Long this spring.

A reporter asked about Bell’s wide wing span, and talked about being impressed that he’s still able to get to pitches inside.

“When he gets ready early and he’s on time, it doesn’t matter where the ball is. Whether it’s outside or middle in, he gets to the ball,” Martinez said.

“So the biggest thing for him, and K-Long tells him, is to always be on time. Be ready to hit the fastball and be on time, and you’ll put a good swing on every pitch.”

As Bell told reporters on Friday night, that advice about always being on time, and ready to hit the fastball, was something that 22-year-old, 2020 NL Batting champ Juan Soto told Bell as well as they talked hitting in West Palm Beach, FL.

Bell said that in spite of the fact that he’s got a few years and some experience on Soto, he has made sure to watch the way the preternaturally gifted hitter approaches his at bats, in games, and in batting practice, so he can learn what he can from one of the best hitters in baseball.

“Obviously I think I would be pretty stupid not to,” watch and learn from Soto, Bell said.

“This guy has had so much success. I want to say one of the first conversations that I had with him was just asking his approach, and he said, ‘Fastball right down the middle every time.’ His best fastball, whether it’s 95 of 105, if he’s ready for that right down the middle and he can take that ball to left-center field, he’s ready for all other pitches.

“So I just put that in my back pocket, that’s easily the best left-handed swing in the game, so I’m trying to mirror [that] myself, think that way as well and hopefully have success.”

Bell’s willingness to watch Soto, and talk about what he’s learned from him, impressed his manager.

“The conversations with him are awesome,” Martinez said. “Because he’s always engaged in every conversation. And he watches. He watches everything. We had a conversation last night, about how he’s watching Soto and his routine and learning from Juan Soto. For me, from a guy that’s coming from a new team, to join us, for him to say that about a 22-year-old, and that he’s learning things from a 22-year-old, is pretty impressive.

“And it’s pretty impressive that it doesn’t matter who it is, that he wants to continue to learn and get better.”

Martinez said he’s also been impressed with Bell’s willingness to take his walks, something the manager prizes, with five so far (vs seven Ks).

“For a big guy like that who hits the ball that hard, he’s up there and he does accept his walks,” the skipper said.

“We want him to be aggressive in the strike zone, we talked about that with him, but yet he understands that taking his base is part of the process. So, I love having him.

“This guy is unique. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides. He loves to play the game. He’s a great teammate in the clubhouse.”

The power from both sides was on display this past week, with Bell hitting opposite field blasts from each side of the plate for two of the three homers he hit in the last few days.

(Bell’s third this week went out to center from the left side).

“Yeah, that’s right where I want to be, especially on balls away,” Bell said.

“That’s what I want to do. I want to be able to shoot the gap to left-center left-handed, and to right field right-handed.

“If I can do that then I’m a really dangerous hitter, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”