CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Josh Bell's biggest goal as the West Virginia Power prepares for its season opener is a simple, but essential one.
"Just staying healthy, that's my number one priority," he said.
One of the Pittsburgh Pirates' top prospects, his 2012 season lasted all of 15 games after a meniscus tear shelved him for the rest of the year. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound outfielder is at 100 percent now and ready to resume his climb through the Pirates' developmental system, a journey that starts at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against the Asheville Tourists.
Bell's first professional baseball season ended suddenly on April 24, 2012. While running the bases, he took a hard turn to second, made a move back to first, then started to second again, tearing his meniscus. He was hitting .274 with one home run and 11 RBI before the injury.
At first, doctors didn't think a meniscus surgery would be too big of a deal. Once they examined the knee further, the news went from unfortunate to awful. They originally thought it was a medial meniscus tear, which calls for a four-to-six week recovery time following surgery. Actually, it was a lateral tear, which needs four-to-six months of recovery time.
For a then-19-year-old second round pick - who signed a $5 million bonus, the largest for a second rounder in Major League history - the news was a shock to the system.
"Especially when I got the first time period to get back, I thought it was just a minor setback," he said. "When I was told four to six months, I was like, 'What?' Missing the entire season ... it's just a 20-minute surgery. It's a slight tear and a slight surgery.
"I guess that's just how the cookie crumbles and that's a bad bounce you have to take," Bell added. "I took it in full stride, and I hope to sail through this year."
The layoff hasn't seemed to hurt Bell, new Power Manager Mike Ryan said. As he watched the now-20-year-old through spring training, Ryan said Bell looked "tremendous."