Joe Bisenius isn't exactly in unchartered territory. He pitched at Double-A last season, making it likely that he would be at Triple-A Ottawa in 2007. Instead, he's getting a look for a spot in the Phillies bullpen, looking to make a pretty big jump. Five years ago, the Phillies promoted Carlos Silva from Double-A to the majors and in 2004, Ryan Madson made the same leap. Bisenius looks to be the next pitcher to skip over Triple-A.
To say that Bisenius pitched at Double-A last season is a bit of a misnomer. He spent much of the season at Clearwater where he pitched 35 of his 51 games last season. That makes the jump even larger for the 24 year old right-hander. His minor league numbers have been impressive, posting a 3.22 ERA in three minor league seasons. The only bump in the road was in 2004 when he struggled at Lakewood, but still earned a promotion the next season, based on his potential. Oddly, the Phillies are looking at him for a spot in the major league bullpen based on that same potential.
So, where would Bisenius fit in the Phillies bullpen?
Tom Gordon is the closer and it figures that Antonio Alfonseca will be the setup man; at least that's the plan. Then, there's Madson and Geoff Geary to help get to Alfonseca or take over for him if he struggles. Matt Smith figures to be the lefty specialist, meaning that five spots are spoken for. Then, there are Rule 5 picks Jim Ed Warden and Alfredo Simon and the Phillies would like to keep one of them on the roster, but both won't make the club. Left-hander Fabio Castro may have a shot, but the Phillies have considered sending him to Triple-A to have him work as a starter. Various other names like Brian Sanches, Eude Brito, Clay Condrey and Anderson Garcia will be in contention for a job. In other words, it won't be easy for Bisenius.
With a good showing this Spring, Bisenius could still put himself in a position where he would make decisions tough on Charlie Manuel. The Phillies are confident that Bisenius could handle the move to the majors, but they also know that a little time at Triple-A might benefit him. It certainly is a decision that the Phillies are going to give lots of consideration to making since their bullpen is such a question mark.
The odds are that Bisenius will start the season at Triple-A Ottawa, if for no other reason than the fact that there are pitchers with more experience who may step ahead of him in line. Clay Condrey for instance has major league experience and did a nice job for the Phillies last season. The need for a second left-hander could help Brito or Castro to win a spot as well. It could well come down to a numbers game where Bisenius will be squeezed out because of his lack of experience at the upper levels.
Long-term though, Bisenius will be a part of the bullpen before too long. Certaily in September, he'll get a shot, if not before. He'll provide a nice option for the Phillies to call on if they need help during the season. Plus, that role would give Bisenius a chance to move a little slower through the system rather than jumping into the bullpen to start the season.