After Belisle went 5-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 72 appearances last season, concern arose that his workload -- 70-plus appearances in the last four seasons -- had permanently diminished his effectiveness. Belisle's four-seam fastball velocity has dropped noticeably, but he feels he can return to past effectiveness with a smarter plan involving changing speeds.
Belisle gave up six runs in his first five Spring Training appearances, but in the last five he gave up no runs and just two hits and one walk while striking out three.
"I try to act like the season begins about two weeks into Spring Training," said Belisle, 33. "I concentrate on getting things ready to go, then leaving it all out on the field. And I try to do it early in late spring, rather than turn on something on day one of the regular season."
A fastball that he once could sling at 94 mph topped out at 90 mph Wednesday. But he brought his curveball at 78-84 mph and his slider at 83, which enhanced the fastball that he did have.
Belisle hopes to maintain effectiveness during the season by modifying his daily workout regimen. Belisle has gone hard for many years, but has been talking to 41-year-old closer LaTroy Hawkins about how to be more efficient.
"I feel fantastic, and I've really been using Hawk to ask questions and gain insight," Belisle said. "He really knows how to recover and monitor his workload, listen to his body. There's no less intensity in the work output. It's understanding the work-recovery cycle, understanding the body more. It's being tougher, meaner, smarter, wiser."