Bannister focuses on regular season

Bannister focuses on regular season

PHOENIX -- Right-hander Brian Bannister said he and the other Royals starters want to head into Opening Day with all cylinders running well, so each outing now is time to work out kinks.

Bannister didn't display too many of those kinks on Monday in his start against the Athletics.

While his five innings weren't spotless, they were efficient and effective, two things Kansas City manager Trey Hillman welcomes from his pitchers at this point in Spring Training.

"We need to get off to a good start," Bannister said. "We can't work into the season like we're working in Spring Training. Right now, we're letting our pitches develop and we're getting sharp.

"But when we cross that line on Opening Day, it's business."

How successful that business will be often can be determined in outings like this one. Bannister, Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and the rest are two weeks away from the 2008 season, so they must look at each outing as preparing them for what the season might hold.

That's what the 27-year-old Bannister did Monday.

In this outing, his goal was to command his pitches better, which seems particularly important whenever going against a ballclub that displays the patience at the plate that the A's do.

So he tried to pitch to counter their patience.

"I tried to be efficient," said Bannister. "I think we were into the fifth in under an hour, so that's the way I try and pitch. That's what was good about today."

What was not so good about today, if anything, was Bannister's struggles early to control the velocity on his pitches. His curveball was too slow, while his slider was too hard.

But Bannister eventually found the right tempo for those pitches. After adjusting his velocity, he went into the later innings on a roll, Hillman said.

"It's the best I've seen Brian Bannister pitch live," the manager said. "It was pretty good."

What Hillman and pitching coach Bob McClure saw in Bannister was a pitcher who was trying to do things in a Cactus League game that he'd do in the regular season. He took a step closer to the regular-season form he's hoping to have at month's end.

"This year, I'm really focusing on how I finished last year," said Bannister, who gave up three runs on six hits. "It really left a bitter taste in my mouth. I wasn't able to finish as strong as I wanted to."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.