RC Interview with Brian Bannister

The Royals on Wednesday morning acquired starting pitcher Brian Bannister from the New York Mets in exchange for reliever Ambiorix Burgos. On Wednesday afternoon, RC caught up with Bannister for an interview to talk about his reaction to the trade, his pitches, and his recovery from a hamstring injury that cost him much of the 2006 season.

Royals Corner: Thanks for talking with us, Brian. Were you excited to hear the news, and did you have any clue that you might be traded?

Brian Bannister: The whole thing was a surprise. It all kind of worked out starting [Tuesday] evening. One of the New York reporters called me, and kind of let me know that something was up, because he was actually asking for a quote. And I hadn't heard of anything yet. And then I started following it on the Internet, and it was kind of picking up steam. Then I found out this morning that it was confirmed.

RC: Have you talked to anyone in the Royals' organization yet?

BB: Yeah, Dayton Moore and Buddy Bell called me, and I had good talks with them. They're really excited about it, and I have the same feeling. I think it's a good fit. I have history in Kansas City – I spent two years there with my father – and I'm really looking forward to going back, because I love the city.

RC: I know you lived out in Overland Park. You were pretty young at the time, but do you remember a lot about the city?

BB: Yeah, I remember everything. In fact, I was just at a baseball card show this weekend signing next to Bo Jackson, and we were talking about old Kansas City Royals stories.

RC: Do you know much about the Royals organization itself? Have you ever met Dayton Moore or worked with anyone in the organization previously?

BB: One of my minor league managers is now going to be the Double-A manager for the Royals, so he called me today. I know a lot of the players, and there's a lot of players from the Mets – Bob Keppel, Justin Huber, and Jeff Keppinger, so I'm going to go in knowing quite a few players.

RC: Let's talk about you pitching style. How would you describe your approach, and are there any other Major Leaguers you might compare yourself to?

BB: People say I throw like Jeff Suppan. I don't have the high-90s velocity, but people said my…(inaudible)…as far as my curveball and my cut fastball. Down in Mexico, we really worked on a sinking fastball and my change-up, and really increased the movement on those two pitches. I'm really an intellectual pitcher – I'm out there thinking all the time, setting hitters up, and I work all four pitches in any count.

RC: And your four pitches are a fastball, curveball, change-up, and a cutter, correct?

BB: Yes

RC: Do you throw both a four-seamer and a two-seamer?

BB: Yeah, but I've really been working on the two-seamer, and it's now my primary pitch.

RC: How is your change-up progressing?

BB: Up until this year, even in the big leagues at the beginning of the year, I really didn't throw a change-up. But over the whole time, I worked with Tom Glavine on it, and after I got hurt in the minor leagues and in September in the big leagues I had plenty of down time, and then down in Mexico. It's one of primary pitches now. It's got a good sinking action to it, like a split-fingered pitch.

RC: You debuted with the Mets in 2006, and you did really well, but you missed a lot of the season with a hamstring injury. Had you ever had hamstring troubles like that before, and is it something that's completely healed now?

BB: You know, it was just a fluke thing. After I hit that second double in San Francisco, coming into second base, my cleat caught and I just took a funny step, and I felt a twinge. And then rounding third, it just popped on me a little bit. It's just one of those things, and I don't know why it happened. But I've pitched successfully since July, and I haven't even thought about it. I don't have to wear a brace or anything. It's definitely in the past – it was just kind of a fluke accident.

RC: Had you ever had any previous injuries that had caused you to miss much time?

BB: No, that was the first one.

RC: Overall, how did you feel about your rookie season performance in the majors?

BB: It was a lot of pressure pitching in New York, and it was tough being really the only rookie on the team full of veterans and high profile players. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make the team out of spring training, and then to start off the year, because of Pedro [Martinez's] injury with his toe, I was pitching in the number 2 spot for the first month. So I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, and it's definitely a high-intensity environment. The fans know the game, and they expect a lot, and the media's very quick to analyze everything you do. It's not an easy situation for a young pitcher to come into, but it definitely gave me some good experience. It'll be nice coming back to a situation that's a little bit more low-key, and I think I'll really be able to thrive in that environment in KC.

RC: When you spoke with Dayton Moore and Buddy Bell, did they give you a good idea that you'd have a good shot at making the starting rotation out of spring training?

BB: GMs and managers never just give you a spot – they want you to earn it. They did tell me though that they traded a good young arm for me, and they really like me as a pitcher and are looking forward to me contributing to the team, and they left it at that. That's exactly what I wanted them to tell me, because I want to earn my spot.

RC: Well Brian, thanks for speaking with us, and congratulations on being traded to the organization. We're looking forward to seeing you in a Royals uniform in spring training.

BB: No problem. I'm really looking forward to it and having spring training in my hometown.

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For an in-depth scouting report by Scout.com's Inside Pitch Magazine, click here.

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