Beimel ready to move on in 2007
Lefty hopes to make amends following postseason faux pas
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- One of the early arrivals at Dodgertown this Spring Training was Joe Beimel, and that's no lie.
OK, cheap shot, but Beimel's ready for them.
He messed up in the playoffs. He gashed his pitching hand on a broken glass in a New York bar and lied about it. He undermined the Dodgers' chances against the Mets in the National League Division Series, came clean about it and apologized to his teammates. He then spent the winter anxiously awaiting the start of training camp and the chance to put it all behind him.
Does he expect lingering bitterness from teammates who felt betrayed?
"I can't say I was worried about coming in here," Beimel said. "I apologized and gave everybody a chance to say what they needed to say, and nobody said anything. They had a chance to tear me up one side and down the other. If there are guys who don't forgive me, I totally understand. But I took that as though they accepted my apology. If some still have trouble with me, I totally understand where they're coming from. I'm here to help the team win and you don't always get along with every teammate."
General manager Ned Colletti brought Beimel back and manager Grady Little said the incident is now history.
"It's over with," said Little. "Sometimes when things happen, if you step back and look at the big picture of things, he's very fortunate he just cut his hand and it wasn't worse."
Beimel's body is sound, the nasty cut completely healed. His mind is clear, with a promise there will be no more bar accidents, no more bars period.
"The alcohol was enough of an issue that I missed the playoffs," said Beimel, who will turn 30 in April. "Beyond my clumsiness, I was out. The way I see it, I've played this game my whole life and I get to the big leagues and have a chance to win it all, and I figured there are so many things out of my control that there's no reason to jeopardize it all with alcohol, which is in my control. I just dropped it altogether and haven't had a drink since. I didn't do it for the Dodgers, I did it for me and my family.
"When it all happened in New York, it was one of the worst things that's ever happened to me. But I look back and it might end up being one of the best things to ever happen to me. I was spiraling down. I didn't understand why this was happening to me. Now I'm thankful it happened. It opened my eyes to what I was doing and how important it is to give everything you've got."
Beimel said the glass sliced his skin deep enough to require stitches, but a quarter-inch in either direction and it could have severed a tendon and required surgery.
"As bad as it was," he said, "it could have been worse."
On Saturday, Beimel learned that he lost his salary arbitration case, a panel ruling that the southpaw would receive the club's offer of $912,500 instead of his request of $1.25 million. The club mentioned his postseason mishap and won the case, despite Beimel's 2.96 ERA and 59 appearances.
"I was disappointed with the outcome, but not with going through the process," he said. "I still got a big raise [from $425,000 in '06]. I'm not complaining. I've got thick skin. It wasn't like they were hurting my feelings by what they say, although you wonder how they come up with some of the numbers. It was a great experience."
Most of Beimel's numbers were pretty good. A year ago, Beimel was a relative unknown, trying to revive a career that started promisingly with three seasons in Pittsburgh (2001-03). He bounced from the Twins to the Devil Rays to the Dodgers, with whom he started last season at Triple-A. Called up in May, Beimel turned into one of the more reliable left-handed relievers in the NL. Opposing cleanup hitters went 2-for-29 against him.
Why the breakthrough? Beimel credits the Devil Rays' Triple-A pitching coach Joe Coleman for fixing a mechanical flaw in his windup that now provides better timing, as well as a more deceptive delivery. He believed he put it together enough to show Tampa Bay during a late callup in 2005, but the club went with younger players and Beimel, who still believed he could pitch in the big leagues, signed with the Dodgers as a Minor League free agent.
"A lot of times you put added pressure on yourself and you give up a run, and automatically think you're doing something wrong," he said. "I stopped overanalyzing and when I'd give up a run, I'd bounce right back. It's all about confidence. I think pitchers get a little intimidated or scared by big hitters, thinking you have to be perfect with every pitch. I just attack them like everybody else and throw strikes and get ahead.
"Tampa went a different direction and I figured if I got the opportunity, I could do this. It's good to be playing for a team that wants to win and makes the changes necessary to win."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.