Brian Bannister: Hey everyone! It's great to be here and I'm going to try and answer as many questions as I can in the time allotted. Let's get it started.
scout01: Hi Brian. What are you expectations for this season? Do you have any specific goals?
Bannister: I try not to set statistical goals that are too specific. However, I think that every starting pitcher should have the goal of averaging six to seven innings per start, maintaining an ERA below the league average, and winning double-digit games. I think Gil Meche set a really good standard last year that we all should strive for.
texleaguer: Hello Brian. Great luck this season. As a contact pitcher is it an advantage to try to add additional offspeed or breaking pitches to your arsenal at this point in your career?
Bannister: I have tweaked my offspeed pitches since I made it to the Major Leagues in an effort to throw more strikes. Big league hitters have better strike-zone discipline, and I am working on refining my secondary pitches so that they are more effective in different counts, depending on what I'm trying to accomplish.
boomer84: Why do left-handed batters seem to hit right-handed pitchers so well?
Bannister: A lot of right-handed pitchers throw from the third base side of the pitching rubber, and it removes the fear of getting hit that left-handed hitters have when they face a left-handed pitcher. Last year I changed from the first base side of the pitching rubber to the third base side in an effort to be more effective against righties, and I was, but lefties also hit me better as a result.
canes2299: What do you think is the biggest difference coming over from the National League Mets organization to the American League Royals? Which league is tougher?
Bannister: Both leagues have hitters that are equally as good, but the difference is how you can pitch the bottom of the lineup. Because the pitcher is typically a weaker hitter than everyday position players (there are exceptions), you can decide to pitch around the number eight hitter instead. Pitchers also will sacrifice bunt most of the time with runners on base, resulting in an easy out. This is why NL pitchers should have a slightly lower ERA, mainly because the pitcher has to hit for himself.
boomer84: Do you have any lucky pieces?
Bannister: If by pieces you mean good luck charms, then I have only one -- my wife. She's the best thing that ever happened to me.
rcfan: Who is the best Wii bowler in the Royals clubhouse?
Bannister: The best Wii bowler is Luke Hochevar, who has several 300 games under his belt. However, he uses a controversial method (he sits down while he plays), and I don't know if that counts. When we play, we bowl with our non-throwing arm so that we don't have to worry about injury.
kcbtad: A lot of players have superstitions when it comes to game day. Do you have any?
bbfan1231: Brian, first of all, I just want to say what a big fan of yours I am! I love watching you pitch! My question is, I know you are a terrific photographer, are you able to find time for that during the season?
Bannister: Because it's still early in my career, I have remained focused solely on baseball during the season to prevent photography from being a distraction. However, I have many ideas for the future that I think collectors of baseball art would enjoy very much. I also have several ideas to raise money for the community, and I would like to get fellow artist Brett Tomko involved because he has a lot of previous experience in this area. You can look forward to some cool projects in upcoming years. If you want to see something now, I have a photo essay of one of our road trips from last September in Sports Illustrated for Kids this month.
oscal: Hey Brian, I'm a regular Cactus League roadtripper. Any hidden gems in the Phoenix area for good food or drink?
Bannister: Honey Bears for BBQ (right down the street from Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the A's play), Ocean Club for seafood (at Kierland in North Scottsdale, upscale), Pizzeria Bianco for great pizza (downtown Phoenix, be sure to get there early), and Paradise Bakery (many locations) for great soups and sandwiches. I hope that helps!
hornball: Brian, it's great to have another Bannister in KC! How much influence has your dad had in your career so far? Did he push you toward or away from pitching earlier, then did he say much when you were grooming for the position change to pitching?
Bannister: My dad never forced me to play the game of baseball, but when you grow up around players like George Brett, Frank White and Bo Jackson, it's hard to want to do anything else. My father actually encouraged me to be a hitter, because hitters get to play every day and hit the home runs, not give them up. I actually give a lot of credit to current UCLA coach John Savage for giving me a change to pitch at USC during my freshman season because me dream was to play in the Major Leagues as a second baseman. I still get to hit a few times each year and I take it very seriously.
royalsws: Brian, what did you feel you did well last season and what would you like to improve upon this year?
Bannister: Last year, I was joining a new organization with just six starts under my belt in the Major Leagues. I wanted above all to prove that I could be a dependable, consistent starter in the tougher American League. This year, I will get to pitch an extra month, and my No. 1 goal is to average close to seven innings per start without throwing a high number of pitches every game. Gil Meche was the only pitcher that threw more than 200 innings for us last year, and this year I would like several of us to join him in eclipsing that number.
Bannister: I know I have time for only a few more questions, but I wanted to let everyone here know that I will be doing a brand new mailbag-style chat twice a month here on royals.com. If your question didn't get answered, or you think of a question you want to ask me as the season progresses, go ahead and e-mail it to email@example.com. I will be looking at all the questions you send me, and twice a month I will answer them for you. I am really looking forward to it, so let me know what Royals questions you have!
iamnice: Mr. Bannister good luck on the 2008 season! Do the fans play an important role in how you pitch, or do you just block out the crowd and pitch?
Bannister: As players, we appreciate fans that are very knowledgeable about the game or take the time to be unique by making posters, T-shirts or artwork. As a kid, I loved going to the ballpark and that is why I like saying hi or signing autographs for kids. I never know when someone is celebrating a birthday or it is their first baseball game, so on the days I'm not pitching I try to spend time with the fans. Cheering for us is always a plus, but only when we deserve it. Booing players on the other team is always appreciated and gives us a home-field advantage.
demodave06: What do you think about the city of Kansas City?
Bannister: I think Kansas City is one of the best baseball towns in America. The fans are dedicated and creative, and the organization has a rich history. I am proud to play for this franchise, and to represent the name on the front of my jersey. It is an exciting time to be a part of this city and this organization.
Bannister: I want to say thanks to everyone who sent in a question, and if your question didn't get answered or you sent in multiple questions, please remember that I will be answering questions twice a month right here on royals.com. E-mail all your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and I'll see you at the ballpark. Have a good evening!