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Nationals Notebook

Quick-Healing Beimel Eager to Rejoin Bullpen

The Cardinals' Colby Rasmus returns to the dugout after scoring on Albert Pujols's two-run home run against the Nationals in the first inning at Nationals Park. Last night's game ended too late for this edition. For complete details on the game, go to washingtonpost.com.
The Cardinals' Colby Rasmus returns to the dugout after scoring on Albert Pujols's two-run home run against the Nationals in the first inning at Nationals Park. Last night's game ended too late for this edition. For complete details on the game, go to washingtonpost.com. (By Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- Associated Press)
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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 1, 2009

No longer is Joe Beimel hurting. He's just itching. On the disabled list since April 21, the Washington Nationals' best relief pitcher (1.23 ERA) now has an entirely healthy left hip flexor and a gnawing desire to pitch again.

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"I mean, I'm fine now," Beimel said yesterday. "I was fine after about three days. It was one of those things where nobody expected it to heal that quickly."

As a result, Beimel is waiting, and "itching to get back out there," he said.

While counting down the minutes until his return -- Beimel will rejoin the Nationals on Wednesday, his first day of eligibility -- the left-hander has followed a peripatetic schedule. Two days ago, he was in Viera, Fla., working out at the team's spring training complex and throwing a 25-pitch simulated game. Yesterday, he flew back to the District. Today and Sunday, he'll pitch in a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac.

Since Beimel injured himself, Washington has restructured its bullpen, replacing Joel Hanrahan with a closer-by-committee system, which means Beimel will return to a new role. At minimum, he'll share the ninth-inning duties with Julián Tavárez and Kip Wells. But there's a chance, Manager Manny Acta said, that Beimel will take the job.

"We won't be afraid to hand him the closing job if he proves he's the guy for it," Acta said.

Beimel's present inability to appear in a game hasn't prevented him from joking about his next bullpen entrance. Friend Jonny Gomes, a former teammate with Tampa Bay, recently sent Beimel a white bathrobe with Beimel's name and number -- 97 -- stitched onto the back. The robe, displayed with the esteem of a retired jersey, hung today from Beimel's Nationals Park locker.

Tough Times in the East

Before yesterday's game began, the Nationals had played 20 games, all of them against opponents from the NL East. "The fact is, it is a tough division, but despite our record I feel we hung in there pretty good," Acta said. "We could have come out of that with .500 baseball at least." . . .

Today through Sunday, the Nationals will be collecting new and gently used baseball and softball equipment at the Nationals Park center field entrance, part of their annual drive to benefit D.C. public high schools.


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