PEORIA, Ariz. -- Heath Bell said he only gets nervous twice a year -- the first day he pitches in Spring Training and the first day he pitches in the regular season.
Well, Bell had those jitters once again on Sunday when he made his Cactus League debut in the Padres' 7-6 win over the A's at Peoria Stadium after being held out of action this spring because of a strained left calf. And while the nerves were certainly there, the closer pitched a perfect fifth inning, needing just 12 pitches to record three outs and two strikeouts.
"I was really nervous," Bell said. "I just felt like it was a long day and a long game, and just like, 'blah.' But I went in there and kept the pitches down, and that's how you pitch."
Bell looked like his normal self back on the mound, reaching 94 mph on his fastball while mixing in his curveball and the rarely used changeup. He threw strikes on 10 of 12 pitches, punched out Jai Miller swinging with a fastball and caught Matt Carson looking.
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"I felt really good," Bell said. "I felt like I wanted to go out there and throw low strikes, and I was able to accomplish that, except for with my offspeed. I think I was just rushing my curveball a little bit. But the changeup was really nice and the fastball was down in the zone."
The changeup was what impressed Bell the most, considering it's easily his least-thrown pitch -- he said he only threw it four times in 2009 and four times last year. Both of the changeups he threw against the A's went for called strikes; a good sign, considering all four changeups he threw in the regular season last year went for balls.
"I have the confidence to throw it now, but I just need to locate it and throw it," Bell said. "Today, I located two of them, so I was pretty happy."
His performance also impressed Padres manager Bud Black, who is expecting big things from Bell once again after the closer posted a 1.93 ERA and 47 saves to finish eighth in the balloting for the National League Cy Young Award.
"Heath threw the ball well," Black said. "I liked the crispness of the fastball. He threw a couple of good changeups. I liked what I saw. He looked comfortable."
Bell said the issue with his strained left calf is almost behind him and he doesn't feel it at all while on the mound. He said pain only happens when he sprints, so he's planning on running at about 80 percent until it's completely healed, since it's an injury that can easily be re-aggravated.
"The calf feels really good," Bell said. "It feels normal. I've been running on it, and it's getting sore just like the right calf is. It's feeling just like my right one, so it's pretty much back."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.