Bannister hoping for control

Brian Bannister has always placed great emphasis on control. Turns out, that quality extends far past avoiding throwing balls out of the strike zone.

Bannister, a control artist who was voted the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2005, will make his Major League debut on Wednesday at Shea Stadium against the Washington Nationals.

After witnessing a sellout crowd rock the building during Tom Glavine's Opening Day start, sweeping the 25-year-old right-hander up in its wave of emotion, Bannister said he is looking forward to dictating the course of action in the Mets' second game of the season.

"It's kind of like being in a car, and you're the passenger, and the driver's a little crazy," Bannister said. "I like actually being in control because I know I control my fate."

A major part of the reason Bannister has started the season in New York and not with Triple-A Norfolk, as many expected, has been his ability to create his own breaks.

Entering Spring Training, Bannister was ticketed for the minor leagues and even spoke candidly about simply hoping to open eyes on the Mets' coaching staff during his first big league camp, admitting his chances for going north with the team were slim.

Bannister created a reason to be noticed. After fine-tuning his change-up with pitching coach Rick Peterson during the team's January minicamp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Bannister put it to work during the Grapefruit League schedule.

Originally, Bannister tried to duplicate the circle-change that has made Pedro Martinez an icon in his native Dominican Republic, but found that what works for Martinez doesn't necessarily translate to everyone.

"It didn't take enough speed off," Bannister said. "For some guys it does, some guys it doesn't."

Instead, Bannister has settled upon a variation of another premium change-up: setup man Duaner Sanchez taught Bannister how to mimick his own, which was actually carbon-copied from Sanchez's former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate, Eric Gagne.

In part because of the new pitch, Bannister finished the spring with the staff's best ERA, going 1-2 with a 0.95 ERA in five appearances, spanning 19 innings.

Though pitching in front of Mets brass and coaches was a thrill all its own, Bannister said he is expecting to find nerves and feelings he has never experienced when he takes the mound Wednesday.

He originally expressed relief that a band of college roommates and family friends who planned to show up at Bannister's first effort – originally scheduled for Sunday against the Florida Marlins – might not be able to make it to Shea in time, saying that it might lighten the amount of stress on him.

So much for that; plans were changed and classes will be skipped, so Bannister will have a full boat of supporters on hand Wednesday, including his father, veteran Major League pitcher Floyd Bannister.

The only absentees will be his brothers, Brett – a pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization who had to undergo surgery on a torn labrum last week – and Cory, who is staying home in Arizona to attend school.

"I'll be pitching for them a little bit," Bannister said.

The Mets may not replicate their sellout crowd from Monday, but Bannister said he expects to work in front of the largest crowd he's ever seen from the mound.

The previous high came in 2000 during Bannister's time at the University of Southern California, when he ventured to the hill in front of a hostile College World Series crowd of about 25,000, many of them rabid Louisiana State supporters loudly decreeing Bannister as nothing but "Tiger Bait."

Bannister said that experience has helped to prepare him for what should be a decidedly more friendly crowd on Wednesday.

"There's going to be a lot of people out there," Bannister said. "They're intense. They're not just watching the game, they're actually participating in it."

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