Bell, Garcia back together in Pirates organization

Jay Bell and Carlos Garcia were both members of the 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates playoff roster.

More than 20 years later, the duo hope they can play a major role in getting the squad back to the postseason.

“It’s nice to be back,” said Bell, who rejoined the Pirates as the team’s new hitting coach during the offseason. “It’s great to be a part of something that is starting to look really pretty. It’s a group of guys who really care for one another, and who are striving to build each other up and pull for the successes of each other.

“It’s a great position to be in, and hopefully we’ll do a great job.”

Bell and Garcia, who is replacing P.J. Forbes as manager of the Altoona Curve this season, made up the Pirates middle infield for four years in the mid 90s.

Bell came to the Pirates from the Cleveland Indians in 1989 and played in 78 games before becoming the team’s regular shortstop in 1990.

Garcia saw his first major league action with Pittsburgh in 1990 and appeared sparingly in the majors until playing in 140 games at second base in 1993.

“After [Jose] Chico Lind left, Carlos ended up being my second baseman,” Bell said. “We were together for about four years. We had a great time together, learned a lot and grew up together in the game.”

Bell enjoyed the best season of his Pirates career during the 1993 campaign when he hit .310 with nine home runs and stole a career-high 16 bases.

“[Garcia] is a guy who helped me become a really good player,” Bell said.

Garcia was named to the Major League Baseball All-Star game in 1994 and hit .280 with 30 of his 33 career homers during the four-year span he played full-time with Bell.

The ex-Pirate double-play combination spent some time catching up when Bell’s Pirates took on Garcia’s Curve during Saturday’s exhibition game at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“I felt happy talking to Jay,” Garcia said. “I got to talk with [former Pirate] Orlando Merced in spring training too. Those years when we played together in the 90s were great. It’s great to see them and see they’re doing good.”

Garcia has managed the Pirates high-A team in Bradenton the past two seasons and has worked with many of the players on the current Curve roster.

“I think Carlos is going to do a great job,” Bell said. “I think he’s a guy who has been around the game a long time as a player and a coach, and you will have an opportunity to see a guy who learned the game of baseball from Jim Leyland and a lot of other old school type guys.”

Garcia is eager to help Pittsburgh return to the glory days he experienced as a rookie by developing prospects and putting them in a position to help the major league squad.

“Being a Pirate is everything to me,” Garcia said. “It helps me give back what the organization gave me in my early ages.”

The 2013 Curve roster features a few of Pittsburgh’s best prospects including prized starting pitcher Jameson Taillon.

“The bar is up there,” Garcia said. “We expect nothing but the best effort from everyone every day. We know that we’re a good, talented team. There are a lot of tools in here, and if we play our best, we’re going to be fine.”

According to Bell, the Pirates have the right man in place to continue the solid job Altoona has done since 1999 at producing major league players.

“The guys really respond to him,” Bell said. “They enjoy playing for him. I think he’s going to be a guy who does a fantastic job for Altoona.”