Josh Bell was coming into Spring Training ready to challenge for the Pirates' starting first base job. He may have to wait.
The Pirates' third-ranked prospect underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove a loose body from his left knee, and will be sidelined two to four weeks. That leaves uncertain his status for Opening Day.
The 2011 second-round pick recently informed the Pirates of discomfort in his left knee after participating in a mid-January minicamp in Bradenton, Florida. The club's medical staff determined that a loose body was causing the pain and recommended surgery, the team said in a statement. Bell missed time in 2012 with a torn meniscus and in 2014 with a bone bruise, both in the same knee.
Bell made his Major League debut last season and hit .273 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 45 games. MLB.com's No. 27 overall prospect got off to a sizzling start in the bigs, singling in his first Major League at-bat on July 8 and clubbing a grand slam against the Cubs the next day. He spent most of the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he batted .295/.382/.468 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 114 games.
Viewed as a prime contender for the first base job, Bell is expected to compete with David Freese and John Jaso for playing time and also is capable of playing in the outfield. In his Minor League career, he owns a .303/.373/.454 slash line with 44 homers and 285 RBIs in 487 games.