The Washington Times - May 7, 2009, 01:50PM

Just a quick break from the Manny Ramirez circus. I wanted to make sure everyone saw this article I wrote on Joe Beimel last night that unfortunately wasn’t up on our website this morning.

It is quite telling that Beimel’s return from the DL was being treated as such a big deal by the Nationals. That just shows you how bad this bullpen has been that a guy like Beimel (a solid reliever, to be sure, but hardly an imposing pitcher) could make such a difference.

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Anyways, I thought the comments from Dodgers manager Joe Torre — who had Beimel in L.A. last season — were particularly interesting. Torre believes Beimel has the right mental makeup to be a closer, and that’s half the battle right there.

OK, the full story (note this was written prior to last night’s game)…

LOS ANGELES - Salvation for the Washington Nationals’ beleaguered bullpen arrived here Wednesday on the outskirts of Hollywood in the form of a 32-year-old left-hander with a career 4.26 ERA and three saves.

That Joe Beimel is considered the solution to all of the Nationals’ woes can be viewed either as a sign just how bad Washington’s relief corps has been or as a tremendous compliment to Beimel.

The Nationals choose to look at it through both prisms. Yes, the bullpen entered Wednesday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 0-8 record, 5.25 ERA and eight blown saves in 11 chances — but Beimel’s return should bring changes.

“Big difference,” manager Manny Acta said. “We saw that starting in spring training with him, how he can push guys back down to a better comfort level. And now he’s a guy we can use in the eighth, in the ninth. Guys feel comfortable with him.”

On the disabled list the past 15 days with a strained left hip flexor, Beimel could only watch and suffer with his teammates as the Washington bullpen imploded on a near-nightly basis. Would the veteran lefty, who posted a 1.23 ERA in eight games before getting hurt diving for a bunt April 20, have turned any of those losses into wins?

Perhaps. Whether he would have had a tangible impact on the Nationals’ overall fortunes or not, he’s just happy now to have an opportunity to contribute.

“I’d like to make a big difference,” he said. “It’s been frustrating for me to have to sit back and feel helpless and not be able to do anything to help them out. Now I’m back, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.”

How exactly does Acta believe Beimel will most help his team? The manager wasn’t entirely sure Wednesday afternoon, but he knows it will happen sometime during the game’s final two innings.

Since Joel Hanrahan was demoted to middle relief, Acta has used an assortment of veterans as a closer by committee. Right-handers Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells have gotten the ball most often, though neither has seized the opportunity. So Beimel, the club’s most effective reliever before he got hurt, could work his way into the ninth-inning picture.

“He gives us some comfort, having a guy like him in the back of our bullpen,” Acta said. “We know he’s not going to get rattled by anything. He’s been around. He’s going to throw strikes.”

Very little about Beimel’s profile — he doesn’t throw hard, he relies on cunning more than physical talent, he’s left-handed — suggests he’s cut out to be a closer. But it’s not only Beimel’s current manager who believes he can handle the job.

“He’s not afraid to do that. That I can tell you,” said Joe Torre, who managed Beimel in Los Angeles last season. “I like Joe Beimel a lot because he took the ball and you knew he wasn’t going to be affected by the pressure of the game. … If they decide to use him as a closer, he’s certainly not going to waffle from it.”

Even if he doesn’t have a closer’s stuff?

“Doesn’t matter,” Torre said. “Half the battle as a closer is the fact that the game doesn’t speed up for you.”

That has been perhaps the Washington bullpen’s biggest issue this season. Relievers who have enjoyed success pitching in the sixth, the seventh and the eighth innings haven’t been able to take the mound in the ninth with the same sense of confidence and composure.

Beimel, at least on the surface, shows little emotion or nerves — which could make him the ideal man to swoop in and fix the problems.

Once he gets through that first appearance with the game on the line.

“I’m actually a little nervous right now,” he admitted Wednesday afternoon. “All day I’ve had that nervous energy just coming back here. … I’m definitely feeling a little ready to go, anxious.”