That's when Bell began to seriously question his future in the game.
"It was a tough few years, ya know?" Bell said. "Things were going really smoothly, then I don't know what happened. It just kind of went away. I thought about, 'Do I still want to play? Do I still want to do this?' But then as more time passed, I realized that this is my passion. I'm a little older now, I'm a little more mature, so I figured I'd give it another shot."
Bell got his opportunity when the Reds came calling last May, offering the down-on-his-luck 27-year-old another chance -- one with which he immediately took off running. Assigned to Double-A Pensacola, Bell transitioned full-time to the bullpen, tallying an impressive 1.72 ERA with 37 strikeouts and just eight walks over 31 1/3 relief innings. He made three appearances for Triple-A Louisville as well, surrendering one run in 3 2/3 frames.
So what exactly helped Bell turn the corner again? He, for one, isn't sure, but he gives a lot of credit to the way the Reds treated him when he was at his worst.
"From the beginning, I felt the confidence they had in me," Bell said. "They were really adamant about wanting to sign me. That was special. It meant a lot to know the organization has your back. It makes you want to show up every day and prove them right."
Experiencing success after so much turmoil, Bell admitted he started having fun again last year. Saving 19 games while with Pensacola, the righty saw his pitches -- a fastball, changeup and slider combination -- become crisper and more consistent as he settled into his new role at the back end of the bullpen.
"There was so much adrenaline, which I hadn't had in a while," he said. "I learned I don't really do well when I'm out there cruising and not busting my butt, so I went out with a bulldog mentality every time."
In all likelihood Bell will begin the season in the Minors, but the rejuvenated pitcher is excited about what the future holds. He feels like his experience and versatility will serve him well if the Reds are forced to call upon some of their organization depth this year.
"I know I still have something to offer," he said. "I basically got parts of three seasons being a swing man, so that experience was huge and it's definitely something I'd love to keep doing. Any way to help the team and make it back to the bigs."