It doesn't seem to matter what team Brian Bannister faces. He has dominated several elite offenses, including Detroit, Texas and Cleveland and pitched admirably against Boston in Fenway Park. On Sunday afternoon, though, Bannister will try to defeat a team he has never faced.
This will be Bannister's first career start against the Blue Jays, a team that is hovering on the outskirts of the pennant race. Bannister, though, has contained several playoff contenders in the past two months. Channeling Mark Buehrle (one of Bannister's favorite pitchers), Bannister pounds the strike zone, rarely makes a mistake and works deep into the game.
Bannister understands the mental aspect of baseball far better than most. He understands how hitters react to certain pitchers and constantly makes adjustments every start and every inning.
"He is right up there with guys who really understand the game," manager Buddy Bell said. "It has everything to do with growing up the way he did [as Major League pitcher Floyd Bannister's son] and playing a different position instead of pitching [at USC]. In high school and in other leagues now, they are just pitching instead of playing positions. Everything has been so specialized."
The rookie, who has only one start this season where he was ineffective, has usually been brilliant. Bannister, the American League Rookie of the Month in June, is 8-3 since May 30 and 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA in his last four starts. His 3.32 ERA ranks ninth in the American League and is second among rookie hurlers to Jeremy Guthrie's 3.22.
KC: RHP Brian Bannister (8-6, 3.32 ERA)
Bannister was his usual terrific self on Tuesday night against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium. The rookie right-hander worked seven innings of one-run ball for his fourth straight start of at least seven innings. Bannister is 8-3 since May 30 and has worked at least six innings in 11 of his past 12 outings. He has been slightly better at home (2.84) than on the road (3.59) this season.
TOR: RHP A.J. Burnett (5-6, 4.31 ERA)
Burnett is scheduled to be activated from the 15-day disabled list to start in the third tilt of the four-game series. The right-hander has landed on the DL twice this season with a right shoulder injury and hasn't started for Toronto since June 28. Burnett turned in five innings during a Minor League rehab outing with Triple-A Syracuse on Monday and reported no lingering issues with his arm. In his career against Kansas City, Burnett is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three appearances.
Player to watch
Joey Gathright. The speedster has two key RBIs, a stolen base and has wrecked havoc on the basepaths during the first two games of the season. Arguably the fastest man in baseball, Gathright has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games.