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Nationals Reliever Beimel Gets Final Tuneup Before Return

Reliever Joe Beimel injured himself throwing out Atlanta's Kelly Johnson on this play April 20 at Nationals Park. He will come off the disabled list tomorrow.
Reliever Joe Beimel injured himself throwing out Atlanta's Kelly Johnson on this play April 20 at Nationals Park. He will come off the disabled list tomorrow. (By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)
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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reliever Joe Beimel came set and glared straight ahead, toward a batter that stood no chance of making contact with anything the left-hander put forth. Beimel's performance yesterday was a significant departure from his previous outing and an encouraging sign for a Nationals bullpen that eagerly awaits his return to the big league club.

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Over and over again, Beimel tested the left hip flexor he strained two weeks ago. He threw all of his pitches and didn't allow a single hit.

"Yeah, a big confidence booster," Beimel said after his day was complete. And then he grinned. "A lot of strikes and they couldn't swing at 'em."

Scheduled to pitch for Class AA Harrisburg yesterday, Beimel instead threw a 25-pitch bullpen session at Nationals Park after Harrisburg's game was postponed because of rain. The Nationals' bullpen catcher, Nilson Robledo, stood in the batter's box, but he was not allowed to swing at any of Beimel's offerings.

"It was a tough decision that we had to make, but you can't control the weather," Manager Manny Acta said. "Life is about adjusting and improvising, and we had to do what we had to do. I think the biggest test, he already had it the other day when he fielded a bunt in a minor league game. Today he had a very good bullpen session."

Beimel is set to return from the disabled list tomorrow in Los Angeles, and the Nationals hope his sole minor league outing is not reflective of what they will receive. On Friday, Beimel started for Class A Potomac, and in one inning he allowed five earned runs on seven hits.

Acta confirmed that Beimel initially will be inserted into the team's committee of closers -- joining right-handers Julián Tavárez and Kip Wells -- though he left open the possibility that Beimel could claim the role outright. Beimel had allowed one run in eight outings before the Nationals placed him on the disabled list April 21.

Saúl Rivera replaced Beimel, and Acta said the right-hander has done enough over the past week to suggest he's moving in the right direction. Rivera was sent to the minors on April 19 after compiling a 12.27 ERA. He has allowed one run in three outings since his return.

Rivera is "getting the ball down in the zone a little bit better," Acta said. "That's the bottom line, especially with a guy like him who's not overpowering, who relies a lot on movement and location."


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