At the end of last season, the projected rotation for 2006 included Benson and Seo, with Aaaron Heilman as the odd man out. Now, with Opening Day merely hours away, Heilman again finds himself in the bullpen, now with rookie Brian Bannister coming out of nowhere to claim the fifth spot in the rotation. So who is this guy and where did he come from anyway?
25 year old Brian Bannister was born and raised in Arizona, where he was a high-school star. In college, Brian pitched well enough at USC to be drafted by the Boston Red sox in the 45th round of the 2002 amateur draft. He didn't sign with the Red Sox, though, and instead pitched another season at USC, after which he was drafted by the Mets, this time in the 7th round. Here are his minor league numbers since being drafted by the Mets:
2003 A Brooklyn 4-1 2.15 ERA in 9 games
2004 A Pt. St Lucie 5-7 4.32 ERA in 20 games
2004 AA Binghampton 3-3 4.06 ERA in 8 games
2005 AA Binghamton 9-4 2.56 ERA in 18 games
2005 AAA Norfolk 4-1 3.18 ERA in 8 games
So this guy has only pitched in 8 games above AA, and he still was awarded a starting slot, as Rick Peterson has been impressed with not only his pitching, but also his makeup.
Bannister is a five-pitch righthander who's out-pitch is a nasty curveball, though according to Rotoworld his stuff is "below average." Brian's father, Floyd Bannister, was a left-handed strikeout pitcher for the Astros, Mariners, White Sox, Royals, Angels and Rangers from 1977-1989, pitching to a 91-92 record in that timespan, and Brian's younger brother Brett was drafted by the Mariners last year.
If pitching doesn't work out, Brian is also a professional photographer, owning a studio in Phoenix called Loft 19, where he calls ESPN, Nike, and LPGA his clients.
Photo by Rick Silva/AP