Bell has been doing all the lifting since that time, as home runs have been flying out of the ballpark. Bell smacked his 20th homer of the season on Thursday afternoon in the Pirates' 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
"It's definitely cool," the 24-year-old first baseman said. "It's not something I would have expected out of myself a couple of years ago. It's cool getting there (to 20 homers) and hopefully, I can continue to progress forward."
Bell hit a combined 16 home runs in 249 minor-league games during 2014 and 2015. He started to display more of a power stroke last season, with 14 homers at the Triple-A level along with three long balls in 45 major-league games.
"When we talked about having a vacuum there in the cleanup spot and our options, we penciled him in 36 or 37 games ago. This is a guy technically by definition who is still in his rookie season hitting cleanup and he's doing a good job," Hurdle said. "I just like the fact that two years ago we're having conversations about his power. Where was it? And at this level, he's continued to mature and get better."
Bell drove in three runs in support of Gerrit Cole, who won his seventh consecutive road start in his longest outing of the season.
Cole (10-8) limited the Tigers to three runs on six hits over eight innings. He struck out seven and retired the last 11 batters he faced. Cole's outing was his longest since he threw a complete game against Seattle on July 27 of last year.
"He stayed with his program, stayed with his game plan, even though they scratched some runs off him early," Hurdle said. "He threw 39 pitches in his last four innings and closed out extremely strong."
Sean Rodriguez also homered and knocked in two runs, while Adam Frazier supplied three hits, a run scored and two RBIs. Pirates leadoff hitter Starling Marte added two hits and scored twice for Pittsburgh (57-58), which has won six of its last eight.
The Tigers rallied for two ninth-inning runs before Felipe Rivero retired the last two batters to notch his 11th save.
Nicholas Castellanos drove in two runs with his American League-leading ninth triple for the Tigers (52-62), who have lost five of six. Mikie Mahtook homered and scored twice.
Detroit's Drew VerHagen (0-2) gave up six runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings in his second major-league start this season.
"Across the board, I was a little bit erratic," VerHagen said. "My breaking balls, the break was all right on them, I just wasn't throwing them for strikes. You could see in their swings and their body language they were comfortable in the box. I didn't do a good job of commanding my pitches and making them uncomfortable."
The Pirates struck first in the opening inning when Frazier tripled and scored on Bell's sacrifice fly.
Detroit answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Mahtook and Miguel Cabrera reached on singles before Castellanos provided a two-out, bloop triple that landed just inside fair territory along the right-field line.
Pittsburgh tied it in the second on Gregory Polanco's leadoff double and Rodriguez's RBI single.
Bell made it 4-2 with his 20th homer. His two-out, two-run bullet over the right-field wall came on the first pitch from VerHagen.
"I threw a fastball and tried to get it in," VerHagen said. "It was a two-seam that just ran back over the plate and he jumped on it."
Mahtook's third-inning homer, which landed in the visitors' bullpen, cut the Pirates' lead to one.
Frazier ended VerHagen's day with his two-out, two-run double to left-center in the fourth.
Rodriguez greeted reliever Edward Mujica with a leadoff homer in the eighth for a 7-3 Pirates lead.
NOTES: Pittsburgh CF Andrew McCutchen served as the designated hitter. He is the fifth different player to DH in seven interleague road games this season. ... Detroit RHP Michael Fulmer, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow injury, will throw a bullpen session on Friday or Saturday. "We're not slotting him in at this point but there's a possibility he could start in Texas," manager Brad Ausmus said. The Tigers play the Rangers Monday through Wednesday. ... The Pirates have now won their last 17 games when scoring at least four runs. ... Tigers DH Victor Martinez had gone hitless in his previous 21 at-bats prior to his fourth-inning single.