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Bannister tabbed June's top AL rookie

Bannister tabbed June's top AL rookie

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Much like the pitch that sparked his Major League ascension -- the curveball -- Brian Bannister's budding career is as much a product of adaptation as it is raw talent.

Like the curveball, with its extra rotation and sudden dip in velocity, Bannister has been baffling batters since leaving the Mets for Missouri in a December trade.

With the cutter, once his primary weapon in New York, no longer the most menacing pitch in his arsenal, Bannister has quietly amassed a solid resume that ultimately yielded American League Rookie of the Month honors for June.

Since taking the mound at Kauffman Stadium regularly for the Royals in mid-May after replacing an injured Luke Hudson, Bannister has employed his signature curveball -- revamped by the teachings of pitching coach Bob McClure and polished during a short stint in Triple-A Omaha -- to great effect.

Bannister posted a 5-1 mark during June, striking out 27 batters through 39 1/3 innings, with a 2.75 ERA. The right-hander earned four straight victories from June 1-17, while receiving consideration for June AL Pitcher of the Month.

"I relied on my cutter when I was in New York," Bannister said. "My changeup wasn't as good, and in Triple-A, I developed the changeup and have stuck with [McClure's] philosophy of fastball-curve-change. Mac has helped a lot."

Employing finesse over brawn, Bannister doesn't beat batters with blinding screamers down the center of the plate, but he does beat them -- often.

"One of the reasons that I don't throw as hard as other guys is because my ball has a natural cut on it," he said. "I don't know if it is because of my arm or because I threw a lot of cutters in the past, but you see guys, they just miss it, so I get ground balls and fly balls and popups to first."

Bannister entered July with an overall mark of 5-4 with a 3.58 ERA, third best of the Royals' five starters behind Gil Meche (3.26) and John Thompson (3.38).

"He doesn't let you beat him," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "He has great instincts and understands when and when not to pitch around a guy."

Being the son of former Major Leaguer Floyd Bannister may have something to do with those instincts, genetic predispositions to tossing round wads of red-seamed leather not withstanding.

"He pitches like a baseball player; he pitches like he is ahead of the game and in control," Royals manager Buddy Bell added.

Larry Santana is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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