- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

BEIMEL JOINS BULLPEN

VIERA, Fla. - After searching from within for a top setup man the last month, the Nationals decided they needed to go outside to shore up their bullpen.

Washington signed Joe Beimel on Wednesday to a one-year, $2 million contract, and manager Manny Acta didn’t hesitate to name the veteran lefty his new eighth-inning arm.

“This is a big piece for us,” Acta said.

Beimel, 31, who posted a 2.02 ERA in 71 appearances with the Dodgers last season, has been one of the majors’ most effective relievers for several years. A victim of the depressed free agent market, he was left unemployed less than three weeks before Opening Day but chose the Nationals over a couple of other clubs bidding for his services.

“He’s a consummate pro on the mound,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We wanted the best possible reliever that gives us the best chance to fill the spot in the bullpen.”

Beimel joins closer Joel Hanrahan and right-hander Saul Rivera as locks to make Washington’s bullpen. The other four spots remain up for grabs among right-handers Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, Steven Shell, Jesus Colome and Terrell Young and lefty Mike Hinckley.

MARLINS 7, NATIONALS 5

Washington’s loss Wednesday night to Florida was notable for two reasons: Scott Olsen’s struggles against his former team and injuries to Ronnie Belliard and Lastings Milledge.

Belliard hurt himself running down the first-base line on a fourth-inning grounder and had to be helped off the field. The veteran second baseman was diagnosed with a sprained left ankle and will be re-evaluated Thursday, but he likely won’t return to the lineup for several days. Milledge bruised his left knee when he collided with first baseman Gaby Sanchez in the ninth inning and limped off the field. His status is day-to-day.

Olsen, meanwhile, had a rough outing against his ex-teammates, allowing four runs and five hits in four innings.

- Mark Zuckerman

TEMPERATURE CHECK

Shawn Hill [DOWN]

The ultimate competitor ran out of chances with the Nationals

Bullpen help [UP]

Beimel’s signing a huge upgrade for Nationals’ shaky relief corps

Emilio Bonifacio [UP]

Ex-Nationals infielder has two triples and a double against former team

QUOTABLE

“My prayers are with him. He was tremendous for us over here. He’s an A-1 human being, and we just wish him the best. I’m sure he’s going to be fine and he’s going to be able to do whatever he wants in baseball once he recuperates.”

- Manny Acta on former Nationals infielder Aaron Boone, who will have open-heart surgery to replace a damaged valve

THURSDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Showers, 54 degrees

Viera: Isolated storms, 78 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Thursday: vs. Orioles in Viera, 1 p.m.

Friday: vs. Tigers in Lakeland, 1 p.m.

Saturday: vs. Cardinals in Viera, 1 p.m.

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