Joe Biemel, yes that Joe Beimel, the St. Mary’s High School alumnus, former Duquesne University pitcher, 1996 draft pick of the Texas Rangers and 18-year veteran of professional baseball — is attempting to revive his playing career.
The 44-year old left hander, who last appeared in a professional game in 2016 in the Atlantic League, has agreed to a minor-league deal with San Diego, Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported on Friday afternoon.
He will report to Double-A San Antonio and wear his trademark No. 97 jersey. Biemel is still the only Major League player to have ever worn 97.
Beimel, understanding of the general confusion that arises when a player of his age tries to revitalize their career, clarified his intentions publicly after Lin’s report. He wants to play, not coach and this move comes with great confidence in his physique and abilities.
In the caption of an Instagram picture of Padres offices posted on June 13, prior to official announcement from the club, Beimel said that a post-MLB career in player development had helped him retool his motion and achieve fastball velocity the likes of which he never saw during his time in the majors.
“It gave me an opportunity to experiment with different mechanics, workout programs and recovery methods to try and make our athletes the best they could be,” Biemel wrote in the post. “I even experimented with my body weight to find out where I moved the best. … I am throwing harder now than I did at any point in my 30’s.”
FanGraphs lists his highest average fastball velocity for a single-season at 89.8 mph, which came during three appearances with Minnesota in 2004. Following his short stint with the Twins and for the rest of his career, average fastball velocity sat south of 88 mph.
But, by all accounts, Beimel’s training post-retirement training regime has worked wonders. Bob Nightingale of the USA Today reported that Beimel had been clocked in the mid-90s during an exhibition game vs. the Israeli Olympic team last month.
Former 22nd-round draft pick Cody Decker, who coached him during that exhibition, praised Beimel’s decision to come out of retirement.
Was an incredible group of talented young El Paso ball players from both @EPBYAA and @BEliteAthletes. Since those games from that group there have been 3 signed pro contracts and 3 college commitments (so far!).@TheBaseEP https://t.co/JPTcNRdIll
— Cody Decker (@Decker6) June 11, 2021
A consummate journeyman, Beimel spent 18 years traversing professional baseball’s major and minor leagues. He began his career with the Pirates, the team he grew up rooting for. He made his debut on April 8, 2001. He started and earned the win by going five innings and surrendering just two earned runs vs. Houston.
During his time with the Dodgers in the mid-2000s, he earned a reputation as the frequent foil of Giants slugger Barry Bonds, a player Beimel loved watching as a child when Bonds played in Pittsburgh. Biemel made a career out of beating left-handed hitters and Bonds, the seven-time MVP, was no exception. He batted just .069 against Beimel, his third-lowest average against any pitcher ever.
Beimel has played all over the league, making big league appearances for Tampa Bay — back when they were still the Devil Rays –, Washington, Colorado, Seattle and the Los Angeles Dodgers, in addition to the aforementioned Pirates and Twins. He owns a career 4.06 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 676 appearances and 680 innings.
Beimel is one of the most successful players to ever come out of Duquesne’s now-discontinued baseball program. His 13 years in Major League Baseball make him the longest-tenured former Duke in the sport.