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Beimel grateful for second chance

Beimel grateful for second chance

CHICAGO -- The Dodgers have two nights in this party town with nothing to do before Game 1 of the National League Division Series, but don't worry about Joe Beimel. He's placing himself under protective custody.

"First, I'm going to buy a straightjacket and chain myself to the bed and hang out," he said. "I'll watch a few movies. I'm not going to take any chances of something stupid happening."

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Like the something stupid that happened two nights before the 2006 Division Series opened in New York. Beimel sliced his pitching hand on a broken beer bottle in a bar. His bogus cover story that the injury occurred in his hotel bathroom was disputed by bar-hopping eyewitnesses.

He came clean with the team and media, but his dream of postseason glory turned nightmare. Stitches closed the wound, but throwing reopened it. After an aborted workout the morning of Game 1, he was scratched from the postseason roster and his absence was immediately felt, as a revamped bullpen gave away that night's game and the Dodgers were swept by the Mets.

Now Beimel is back for a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I definitely have a little chance at redemption after what happened in '06," said the 31-year-old Beimel. "Joe [Torre] has talked about how players like him play so many years and never make the postseason. I made it and it could have been my one and only chance, but now I get another chance to play in the postseason. It definitely is cool and something I'm not taking for granted."

Baseball historians will remember the Dodgers losing Game 1 because they had two baserunners tagged out at the plate on the same play, but at least those mistakes were committed on the field. The damage that beer bottle did to Beimel was incalculable. Not only were the team's chances to advance compromised, but the clubhouse was demoralized and some teammates never forgave him.

When the club returned to Los Angeles for the workout before Game 3, Beimel addressed a team meeting to apologize. Tension filled the room.

"It was probably the most nervous I've ever been in my life. Not probably, actually, by far," he said. "It was definitely something I needed to do. It started the whole process of putting it in the past and moving on. Nobody said anything."

Beimel said he's "definitely matured" from the ordeal. He said he didn't have another drink until a glass of champagne this past New Year's.

"I know how to handle myself and carry myself a little better," he said. "At the same time professionally, I've put it behind me."


"First, I'm going to buy a straightjacket and chain myself to the bed and hang out. I'll watch a few movies. I'm not going to take any chances of something stupid happening."
-- Joe Beimel

Beimel's 2008 season has been an adjustment. He was passed by Hong-Chih Kuo as the primary left-handed reliever and demoted into a situational spot, facing fewer hitters than in recent years, particularly fewer right-handed hitters. He's 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA, but 21 of the 60 (35 percent) runners he's inherited have scored. By contrast, Kuo has allowed 2 of 20 (10 percent) inherited runners to score. A year ago, only 10 of 57 (17.5 percent) inherited runners scored off Beimel.

But now Kuo is left off the roster, shelved again with elbow problems, elevating the resilient Beimel back to prominence as the primary left-hander of a postseason team.

"Over the last couple weeks since [Kuo] has been shut down, I'm throwing a little more and to more right-handed hitters," Beimel said. "It's too bad he won't be able to play. I'm just going to have to step up, and everybody else will have to step up without him."

The timing for Beimel couldn't be better. He earns $2.045 million this year and is eligible for free agency. Lesser relievers than Beimel have parlayed a couple high-visibility postseason appearances into multi-year riches.

Beimel finished the regular season with a team-high 71 appearances compared to 83 last year. But his ability to dominate left-handed hitters has been missing. Lefties are hitting .270, and that average was much higher until a late-season stretch of 2-for-20. A year ago, lefties hit .188 off him.

Beimel hasn't pitched against the Cubs this year, but he's 3-0 with a 1.54 lifetime, and he's allowed only one earned run over 16 innings in his career at Wrigley Field.

He also is working on a rare streak, having made 104 consecutive appearances without allowing a home run.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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