SARASOTA, Fla. -- Even among the players who typically don numbers 60 and above, Joe Bisenius draws attention. Beyond the bald head that glistens, or the icy blue eyes that shoot lasers through their target, Bisenius earns notice for the confidence emanating from his right arm. His name has come up often this spring, largely because of his rapid progression last year, when the 24-year-old corrected a delivery flaw and soared in his transition from starter to hard-throwing reliever. Though he's likely ticketed for Triple-A Ottawa, a dominating spring could change that thinking.
"Anytime you hear that people are happy with your progress, it's a good feeling, but I still have to perform, show my ability and give them confidence, so when a time comes that they need me, they'll call on me," Bisenius said. For Bisenius to follow the path laid by Carlos Silva in 2002 and followed two years later by Ryan Madson, who were earmarked for the Minors in those respective springs, he'll have to overpower hitters the way he did in Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading in 2006, when he combined to whiff 95 batters in 84 innings. After isolating his control problems from 2005 as a mechanical issue, Bisenius simplified his delivery and noticed the difference almost immediately. "I smoothed things out and gained more velocity," Bisenius said. "It was just not trying to muscle everything, staying nice and easy and let the ball fly out of my hand. Staying fluid has helped out a lot. They were telling me that for two years, but it was hard to believe. Throwing with an easier motion made me throw harder." The delivery led to improved control, reducing Bisenius' walk total from 37 in 64 1/3 innings to 30 in 84 innings. He followed up 2006 with successful stints in the Arizona Fall League and the Venezuelan Winter League, and has been impressive in throwing sessions this spring, and has a perfect inning to his credit in Grapefruit League action. "He has a big-time power breaking ball," said pitching coach Rich Dubee, who also watched Bisenius in the Arizona Fall League. "He could be knocking on the door. It's just a matter of showing he can do it at the next level." Off the field, Bisenius is the classic story of a Midwestern boy. He grew up and played baseball in Sioux City, Iowa, the state where Ray Kinsella converted prime cornfield into a field of dreams for the ghost of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and his late father. Though it's not a state law, Bisenius remembers a four-hour family trip across Iowa to stand on the field.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.