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Beimel brings veteran presence to bullpen battle

Lefty eyes 12th big league season in comeback from Tommy John surgery

Special to

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Asked about what non-roster invitee Joe Beimel could bring to the Mariners' bullpen, manager Lloyd McClendon offered an answer that not only described Beimel's chances of making the team but Beimel himself.

"He's an interesting guy," McClendon said.

From YouTube stardom to the embarrassing reason be missed the 2006 National League Division Series, Beimel enjoyed a full 11 seasons in the Major Leagues. He also was pretty successful before an elbow injury threatened to derail his career.

Beimel last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2011, before Tommy John surgery wiped out all of 2012 and relegated him to the Minors last year as he worked his way back.

The left-hander, who signed a Minor League deal in the offseason, appears to have a good shot at making the Mariners' roster.

"I definitely feel that way. That's why I signed here," Beimel said Monday. "I looked at a couple other places but those situations weren't as good as I felt here. ... I felt this was the best opportunity for me."

Beimel has pitched for six other clubs, including two stints with the Pirates, and compiled a 4.21 ERA in nearly 600 innings. Most of his success came with the Dodgers from 2006-08.

That also is when he made a name for himself off the field.

Two nights before the start of the 2006 NLDS between the Dodgers and Mets, Beimel was out drinking in New York. A glass of beer slipped from his hand, shattered and lacerated his pitching hand. Beimel returned to his hotel room, called a team trainer and told him he cut himself in the bathroom trying to prevent a glass of water from hitting the floor. Beimel tried to pitch but couldn't and was sent to Los Angeles.

The Dodgers lost the series, 3-0, but not before the truth came out. Beimel admitted he wasn't sober that night and was out past curfew.

"It was probably for the best," Beimel said later. "I'm not a good liar."

Beimel said he was sober for 15 months afterward and since then only drinks in moderation.

Two years later, Beimel gained a cult following through a series of fan-made YouTube videos touting "The Legend of Joe Beimel." The videos were heavily promoted on a Dodgers fan website, and during Spring Training that year, the middle reliever won an online vote to be part of the team's bobblehead promotion.

But the Mariners are most interested in what Beimel can do on the mound -- as well as provide veteran leadership in an otherwise mostly young bullpen.

"I like what I've seen to this point," said McClendon, who also managed Beimel in Pittsburgh. "The ball is coming out real nice. The velocity is up, and he's got late movement in the zone.

"He's a veteran guy who's had success. He's pitched in big ballgames."

Despite the two-year absence from a big league mound, Beimel is ready to return and put his injury history behind him.

"It's been a while since I've felt this great," he said. "I had a tough year last year with inconsistency with how I felt my first year back. Toward the end of the year, the last two or three weeks, I started to feel good and had the offseason to recover and do strength training. Now I feel better than I have in a lot of years."

Beimel, who will turn 37 on April 19, felt similarly at this time a year ago when he was in the Braves' camp on a Minor League deal. But he never made it out of Triple-A.

"I was ready to get back last year and thought at 12 months [post-surgery] I would step back on the mound and be back to what I was before. I quickly found out that wasn't the case," Beimel said. "There were days I'd come to the field and feel great and days I'd come to the field and thought I needed surgery again, my arm was hurting so bad.

"There were times where I would wonder, 'What is going on?' It was frustrating not knowing what was going on until I hit that stretch at the end of the year. It's nice to be past all that and be able to focus on getting hitters out. It's nice to be back to my old self, to look at the catcher, set up and hit the glove."

Beimel said he feels like a 25-year-old again and his velocity reflects that.

His spirit is so high, that health-wise, he is not ruling out another decade in the game.

"I don't have any plans for the next 10 years," Beimel said, "so we'll see what happens."

Chris Gabel is a contributor to

Seattle Mariners, Joe Beimel