PITTSBURGH — It takes something pretty significant to shock St. Louis Cardinals bench coach David Bell.

He’s truly a baseball lifer, having grown up in the game with a father (Buddy), grandfather (Gus) and brother (Mike) who played in the big leagues.

David Bell spent parts of
12 seasons in the major leagues, manning second or third base, so he knows a little something about infield play.

Now, pay close attention to what Bell says about former University High, Morgantown Post 2 and WVU star Jedd Gyorko and the job he’s done since taking over as the everyday third baseman in St. Louis.

“Even though he has been such a huge part of our team, I’d have to say the biggest surprise for me is the way he plays third base,” Bell said.

Bell doesn’t stop there, though. No way.

He pays Gyorko a supreme compliment as he brings up the names of superstar third sackers Nolan Arenado, of the Colorado Rockies, and Manny Machado, of the Baltimore Orioles.

“I haven’t seen a better one,” Bell said. “I know Arenado has the reputation to probably be the best in the game, and Machado. You can’t argue that, but seeing Jedd on an everyday basis make every play there is to make at that position, I think maybe he’s found a home.”

Gyorko is no stranger to third base. He broke into the big leagues at that position with the San Diego Padres, in 2013.

He played some third for the Cardinals last season but has seen more time there this season as Matt Carpenter has settled in at first.

“It’s been a while since I’ve played over there consistently,” Gyorko said. “I feel like I’m getting stronger each and every day. I’m definitely getting more comfortable.

“I’m starting to get better jumps and starting to figure out which balls I can get to and which are out of reach. The more I’ve been over there, the better I’ve gotten.”

Gyorko was part of two key plays for the Cardinals in Friday’s series opener, against Pittsburgh. He charged a ball at third and whipped a throw on the run to second to start a double play.

He and catcher Yadier Molina also caught Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco napping at third base for a big out. While Polanco took his sweet time returning to the bag, Molina rifled a throw down to Gyorko, who acted as if nothing was coming before tagging the surprised Polanco.

The third base umpire initially called Polanco safe, but a video review overturned the ruling.

Playing third base is all about reaction time. There is little time to react when baseballs are zooming at you at tremendous speeds off the bat.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Gyorko handles all of that with aplomb, Bell said.

“Third base seems to be a great fit for him, just the way he moves, the way he throws, the way his hands are great,” Bell said. “He positions himself for a guy who is not super-fast. He has outstanding range at third base.

“It’s an important position. Our defense hasn’t been up to where we want it. He’s really helped with that and gotten us back to where we’re playing better as a team. He’s a big part of covering a lot of ground on that side of the infield.”

Bell admits he is eager to observe Gyorko’s career as it plays out in the next few years.

“He’s really entered the prime of his career,” Bell said of
Gyorko, who turns 29 in September. “I think he’s going to last for a long time.”

Todd Murray is a sports reporter for The Dominion Post. Write to him at columns@dominionpost.com.