NEW BRITAIN - Having a 40-year-old pitcher with 676 career games in Major League Baseball under his belt on the roster of an Atlantic League team might come as a surprise. But veteran Joe Beimel is ready to surprise a lot of people, as he hopes his time with the New Britain Bees is the start of another journey to the big leagues.
“I feel pretty confident that I still have the ability to pitch in the big leagues,” Beimel said. “Whether it’s my age or whatever that is kind of working against me, I feel like I’m 25, so we will see if I still got something.”
The left-handed reliever hasn’t played in the majors since 2015, when he appeared in 53 games with the Seattle Mariners. Last season Beimel signed with the Kansas City Royals, but never made it up to the big leagues. There was a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out if he wasn’t called up at a certain point, and he decided to exercise it. From there, the Pennsylvania native decided to sit out the remainder of the year and gave strong consideration to retirement.
“I told my agent that if I didn’t have someone sign me by spring training, a big league organization, I would probably retire,” Beimel said. “He said, ‘you know what, I think you should go this route and I think you’ll regret it if you just shut it down right now. You’ve worked too hard to retire right now.’ So I was like, ‘alright, I’ll give it a shot,’ and it worked out. Once my agent said, ‘I think you’ll regret it,’ I thought, ‘you know, I think you’re right,’ so I figured I’ll give it this one last shot.”
While Beimel is currently with the Bees, his ultimate goal, like many of the players on the roster, is to get back into affiliated baseball and back to the majors.
Having taken most of last year off, Beimel enters this season with his arm feeling good and his stuff as good as it has been in a while.
“I feel great,” Beimel said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m here is because I do feel so good. I worked really hard this offseason, just gaining a lot of strength. My velocity is up from where it has been in the last 10 years. Even last year at Omaha I was topping out at 93, and I hadn’t thrown that hard since 2007. This year I am right at 95, as of a couple of weeks ago, so we’ll see if I can keep that going and have that translate day-in and day-out.”
The southpaw still hopes and expects to make it back to Major League Baseball, but he is entering the season with the mindset that staying in New Britain is a possibility for the full year. And he’s more than OK with that.
“I’m going to come here, have fun and not put any pressure on myself,” Beimel said. “If I’m here until the end of the season, that’s fine. If I get picked up to go somewhere, that’s awesome too.”
In the end, Beimel’s goal is to finish his career by having enjoying the latter stages of it and not setting goals he would be disappointed not to reach.
“My one goal is to have fun this year,” Beimel said. “I want to get picked up, make no mistake about that, that’s the reason I’m here, but I’m not going to put the pressure on myself like I did in the past when I was pitching in Triple-A and told myself, ‘I have to get back to the big leagues.’ That mentality has never worked out for me and I have always sort of struggled when I put that pressure on myself. If this ends up being my last baseball experience I want to remember having fun and not just being miserable because I’m not getting what I wanted.”
As for the role Beimel expects to fill with the Bees this season, he expects it to be similar to the one he has filled for most of his career, and that is out of the bullpen.
“I haven’t talked to Stan [Cliburn] about my role this season but I’m going to say that there is no chance I’ll be starting,” Beimel said. “I already have a lot of miles on this arm and I don’t think I can go five or six innings at a time. I would be better served going one, two, maybe three innings.”
It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if Beimel pitched lights out in those opportunities.