Beimel, eager to pitch, rejoins Rockies

Beimel, eager to pitch, rejoins Rockies

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd announced Tuesday, "Johnny Cash showed up. He's dressed in black, ready to go."

O'Dowd was referring to left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who agreed to a Minor League contract and passed the required physical. O'Dowd said it was unlikely Beimel will have time to be in Major League shape by Opening Day.

Beimel, who played catch Tuesday after passing his physical, believes he's closer to ready than O'Dowd or manager Jim Tracy believe.

"That might be what it turns out, but that's not what we're going into this for," O'Dowd said. "I'm sure he's going to think he's going to be ready, but we're not going to rush that at all."

Beimel insists he's even ready to throw a "live" batting practice session Wednesday, when the rest of the club has its lone day off of Spring Training.

Tracy smiled, shook his head and said, "He's ready to go already?" But he said head athletic trainer Keith Dugger will be the judge of that, keeping in mind that the Rockies don't want to risk injury by rushing Beimel.

At any rate, Beimel had his own Spring Training, or as close as he can come to it, in Redondo Beach, Calif. He threw bullpen sessions, first to a professional catcher, then to the catchers at a local high school. He also had players stand in the batter's box but not swing bats.

"I haven't faced big league hitters yet, but I've been throwing since December," he said. "I'm throwing every day and throwing off the mound every other day. I'm throwing up to 50, 55 pitches, which, if I'm doing that in a regular game, you know I'm in trouble.

"I've built myself up. My arm strength is there. I'm just ready to get in a game and face a couple of hitters."

Beimel finished last season with the Rockies, going 0-1 with a 4.02 ERA in 26 games after arriving in a trade with the Nationals. He had gone 1-5 with a 3.40 ERA in 45 games with Washington.

Beimel signed with the Nationals last March 18 and made his first appearance April 7.

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"I think I'm in even better shape than I was last year," Beimel said.

But that was a different situation.

"We're trying to win a World Series," O'Dowd said. "We're not just trying to get a Major League pitcher. He has to be right to help us. We'll put him in the best position to help our club and help himself.

"Joe had other options. I think he really wanted to come here."

Beimel said he liked last year's late-season experience with the Rockies.

"I'm comfortable here," he said. "I spent a couple of months here. The way I look at it, we have a great chance to win here. Some of the other places, I didn't have that same feeling."

If Beimel begins in the Minors, the bullpen could be a short from the left side, especially if lefty Franklin Morales is the closer in the absence of injured Huston Street. Randy Flores, who returned Monday from six days off after being hit with a line drive, would be the only lefty setup man.

Flores' injury highlighted how thin Colorado is in left-handed relief. After him, the only healthy lefty reliever in camp is Matt Reynolds, who hasn't pitched above Double-A. Now the Rockies are leaning toward giving Reynolds as much experience as possible in camp, but only taking him to start the season in the case of an emergency.

Tracy said Beimel is entering a competitive situation.

"Obviously, it's going to take some time," said Tracy, who said he will meet with Beimel when the Rockies return to work Thursday. "But he needs to realize as we move forward, when we get to a certain point, he's got to realize he's got to be better than what it is that we have going on out there at that particular point in time.

"But I don't think he's afraid of that. This fellow is not afraid of a whole lot."

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