Royals acquire Bannister from Mets
Young right-hander expected to compete for spot in rotation
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Royals added another piece to their rotation puzzle with the acquisition of starting pitcher Brian Bannister from the New York Mets in exchange for right-hander Ambiorix Burgos in a deal announced on Wednesday morning by Kansas City vice president of baseball operations/general manager Dayton Moore.
"My dad pitched for Kansas City in 1988 and '89, we lived in Overland Park, [Kan.], and I loved it," Bannister said. "I'm really looking forward to pitching for the Royals. I enjoyed my time with the Mets, but I'm very excited about going to Kansas City. It's a great opportunity for me."
The son of Floyd Bannister, a former Major League pitcher and No. 1 pick of the 1976 First-Year Player Draft, Brian Bannister will, according to Moore, compete for a spot in the rotation, which is expected to include Odalis Perez, Jorge De La Rosa and Luke Hudson.
"Obviously, he's a young, talented pitcher, and as you know, everybody in the game is pursuing young, talented pitchers, and in Kansas City, we're no different," Moore said. "We look at him competing for a spot in our rotation."
Bannister, who will turn 26 in February, began the 2006 season as the No. 2 starter in the Mets rotation. Bannister's performance last spring helped convince the Mets to use the highly regarded Aaron Heilman out of the bullpen.
A right hamstring injury soon curtailed Bannister's season. He was 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA in eight games in the Minors and 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in eight appearances, including six starts, for the Mets. In 38 innings, he allowed 18 earned runs on 34 hits and 22 walks while striking out 19. Opponents hit just .239 against him. He was 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA in six starts with New York.
"I haven't thought about that in months," Bannister said of his difficulty staying healthy. "I spent some time in Triple-A and pitched the first half of winter ball in Mexico. We changed my running stance and I worked to strengthen my hips, and the hamstring hasn't bothered me since. It's history."
The Royals are also convinced that Bannister is completely healthy.
"He had some hamstring issues," Moore said. "Our medical people have spoken, [and] our team doctor feels very comfortable that those issues are behind him."
"It's kind of bittersweet to be with a kid a couple of years, especially a young arm like [Burgos']," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "You hate to lose somebody like that. [He has a] great arm, bright future, obviously, but we've been sitting on this [Bannister] kid a while now. [We have] great reports in a lot of different areas.
"We need young starting pitching, but unfortunately, you've got to give up a guy like Burgos to do that. [Bannister is] no lock for our rotation, but we feel pretty confident that he's a viable candidate without any question."
"There's a lot of different ingredients that go into a successful starting pitcher, but one of them is makeup and intelligence ,and he certainly has that," Moore said of Bannister. "Everybody who sees him obviously has strong opinions about his stuff. The one thing constant with Brian is his desire and ability to compete and his ability to make adjustments."
Bannister had been pitching in the Mexican Pacific League for the Culiacan Tomateros. The USC product was 3-2 with a 3.68 in six starts with 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 36 2/3 innings.
"He's got fastball command and command of the changeup, and when you can throw your changeup, you're never behind in the count," Moore said. "We just like a lot of the raw ingredients."
In addition to his sinking fastball, curve and changeup, Bannister said that he also throws a cutter and a circle change and worked on them in Mexico.
"I've heard a lot of good reports on his pitching ability, his savvy, his field awareness," Royals pitching coach Bob McClure said. "[He has] decent stuff. [He] has not reached his peak yet, and coming from a baseball family, I'm sure that helps."
Burgos possesses an exceptional arm and was Kansas City's closer until losing the job midway through the 2006 season. The 22-year-old was 4-5 with a 5.52 ERA in 2006, but he blew 12 of his 30 save opportunities.
"He's a young, talented power arm, and those guys are hard to find," Moore said of Burgos. "You don't develop them -- you've got to sign them. He's a guy with great upside and has a chance to be a closer someday. He's got ovepowering stuff. He can come in and get a strikeout. He's a tremendous talent."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.