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Bell not satisfied with 40-save plateau

Bell not satisfied with 40-save plateau

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DENVER -- He has saved 40 games in his first season as a Major League closer and also made his first appearance in an All-Star Game, yet Padres pitcher Heath Bell is anything but pleased or satisfied with the way he pitched in 2009.

"To me, this year is a disappointment," Bell said.

On Wednesday, Bell pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the Padres' 6-3 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field, making him the third pitcher in franchise history to earn at least 40 saves in a season.

The closer Bell replaced, Major League career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, did it nine times, most recently in 2007 (42 saves). Mark Davis saved 44 games in 1989.

Bell is fourth in the Majors in saves and is leading the National League.

Yet Bell is hung up on another number: 6. That's how many save opportunities Bell has blown this season, including three in September alone. Hoffman had three blown saves last season for the Padres, a mark Bell wanted to tie, if not better.

"You've got to take the good with the bad," Bell said. "I'm trying to keep the team in the game. I've pitched two or three times in this bad spell where we have come back to win the game. That's all that matters."

Yes, this from a closer who did not have to answer questions about his first blown save until May 30 and his second until Aug. 16 of this season.

"The first five months, I was basically unhittable," Bell said. "It was amazing even to me. I'm not trying to be cocky."

This month, Bell is 1-2 with a 5.54 ERA in 13 games with three blown saves. Bell thinks those struggles are more a function of bad luck -- a few close calls that didn't go his way -- than anything, refusing to believe that he's waning in the final days of the season.

"All I can say is I feel the same physically. I think over the course of the year, I've done, really, really good," Bell said. "You could say it's almost been stupid good. Now I have struggled a little bit.

"I've had absolutely no luck the last two weeks. And because it's the ninth inning, I think everything is so magnified. A lot of times you forget what happened in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They always say the last three outs are the most important outs ... I don't really believe that."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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