When the Minnesota Twins gather for the first time this year as a full team next week in Fort Myers, Fla., they will be missing one important member of their group: bench coach Mike Bell.
Bell is at home in Arizona recovering after being diagnosed with kidney cancer and undergoing surgery on Jan. 28, manager Rocco Baldelli announced Wednesday.
“The situation, it’s obviously serious but Mike has handled this with great courage,” Baldelli said. “He’s recovering, doing great and is looking for the next part of his recovery which will take place at home in Arizona for the time being. But, believe me, he’s already plotting his return back to the dugout and getting back with the guys and getting ready to go.”
Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said it was around the middle of January when Bell, 46, started feeling symptoms and went to get checked out. The surgery went well, and Bell seems to be gaining strength by the day, Baldelli said.
“He’s really encouraged,” Falvey said. “His doctors are encouraged. We’re just excited for the time when he can get back. But in the meantime, we’re here to support him.”
While the Twins are unsure when Bell will be able to return, they’ve been keeping him involved from afar, including him in discussions on the roster, gauging his opinions on players and other team matters.
The Twins do not plan on making any staff adjustments at this point, Baldelli said. Typically, the bench coach has a large role in organizing and running spring training. Baldelli said Bell and quality control coach Nate Dammann, who also helps run spring training, have been in contact, conversing on topics as they normally would.
Dammann will continue to organize spring training with the rest of the coaching staff stepping up in different ways to handle other responsibilities, Baldelli said.
“He’s been very eager. I know with everything that’s been going on, he’s had his attention focused elsewhere, but I think the ability to talk some baseball and have some fun and get the competitive juices flowing have been good for him, and I know he looks forward to it,” Baldelli said of Bell.
Bell was ready to begin his second season as Baldelli’s right-hand man after taking over the bench coach job before the 2020 season. He is the son of former MLB manager Buddy Bell and brother of Reds manager David Bell.
“He has a ton of people that love him and support him, and we’ll all help him get strong and get back healthy and get back to work,” David Bell said on a video call with reporters. “But one other thing is just the amount of support, the amount of people throughout the game and friends that have reached out to him, I know that it’s meant a lot to him. I know that that support is helping Mike through this.”