Former Mets pitcher Heath Bell has retired. Signed by the team as an amateur free agent in 1998, Bell went on to make 590 relief outings in the big leagues with a 3.49 ERA and 3.17 FIP. While he was generally successful in his minor league career, it took him a while to make his major league debut.
After full seasons in Kingsport, Capital City, Port St. Lucie, he played all of 2001 and the very beginning of 2002 in Binghamton before earning a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. Two years later, he got his first shot with the Mets in September and pitched pretty well in 24.1 innings.
Over the next couple of years, he was shuffled between Norfolk and New York so many times that "the Heath Bell Express" became a thing. In total, between 2004 and 2006, Bell made 81 appearances for the Mets and had a 4.92 ERA and a 3.67 FIP. Following the 2006 season, however, the Mets traded Bell and fellow pitcher Royce Ring to the San Diego Padres for relief pitcher Jon Adkins, who went on to make just one appearance for the Mets, and outfielder Ben Johnson, who posted a .456 OPS in 30 plate appearances in his only year with the team.
Of course, Bell had his breakout season in 2007. He threw 93.2 innings over 81 appearances with a 2.02 ERA and 2.50 FIP. His 199 ERA+ the year puts that line—which wouldn't stand out quite as much in 2015—in context. He took over as the team's closer in 2009, and through 2011, Bell remained a very good relief pitcher for the Padres. And the Mets' bullpen was not good as the team missed the playoffs by one game in 2007 and 2008.
Upon hitting free agency after the 2011 campaign, Bell signed with the Marlins and wasn't nearly as effective. He spent a year there before spending one in Arizona in 2013. He made thirteen appearances for the Rays last year, but fittingly enough, he also spent some time in Triple-A Norfolk, now an Orioles affiliate, and the Yankees' affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.