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Bannister looks to continue day-game mastery in series finale

BOSTON | The form chart offers an imposing daily double that favors the Royals in Thursday’s series finale against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Brian Bannister and an afternoon game.

“To me,” he said, “it’s not a big deal. I don’t pitch any differently. I don’t change anything.”

And yet Bannister is the anti-vampire who becomes Herculean in the sunshine. He is 4-0 in his four daytime starts with an 0.62 ERA after allowing just three runs in 29 innings pitched.

Contrast that with his numbers in night games: 0-5 in five starts with an 8.13 ERA.

“It just seems that in the few games I’ve thrown this year,” he said, “the weird things have happened at night. By weird, I mean the big home runs. It happened down in Miami; it happened against the Angels; and it happened in Texas. “To me, the thing that jumps out is I haven’t given up a home run in a day game.”

Except it’s not just this year.

Bannister is 10-1 with a 2.65 ERA in 14 day games throughout his brief big-league career but just 8-14 and 4.73 in 30 night games.

“There always has been a (disparity) for me,” he acknowledged. “I was even better (in the day) in the minor leagues. For me, I don’t think hitters enjoy hitting as much during the day or when it’s cold out. “I don’t think their bodies are as awake (during the day); and when it’s cold, I don’t think the bat feels as comfortable in their hands. I’ve always felt that way.”

Oftentimes, the day game _ like today _ follows a night game. Bannister contends managers often use the quick turnaround as a reason to rest veteran players. Perhaps so, but overall offensive production varies little, historically, between day games and night games.

Bannister knows. He’s checked.

“I’m surprised by that,” he said, “because I really feel the marquee players, if they’re going to sit, are going to sit during the day game.”

TEAHEN AT FIRST

Mark Teahen took a hard look at the lineup on the clubhouse message board and began digging through his locker for the proper glove in preparation for his first action of the season at first base.

“It doesn’t have my name on it,” he said after pulling out an unsigned model. “But it’s mine. Trust me. I didn’t steal it.”

Manager Trey Hillman said he put Teahen at first because Joey Gathright was sufficiently recovered from a sore left shoulder to return to center field. José Guillen played left, while David DeJesus played right.

“We’ve had other opportunities to do it,” Hillman said, “but I just felt this was the best opportunity to try to change things up a little bit.”

LEFT-HANDER SIGNED

The Royals signed left-hander Horacio Ramirez to a minor-league contract and assigned him to extended spring training in Surprise, Ariz. He was released in March by the Mariners.

Ramirez, 28, battled a shoulder injury last season when he went 8-7 for Seattle with a 7.20 ERA in 20 starts. The Mariners acquired him in December 2006 from Atlanta for reliever Rafael Soriano.

Ramirez was 30-22 in for seasons for the Braves with a 4.13 ERA in 86 games. Plans call for him to report to Class AAA Omaha once he gets his arm in game shape.

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

Hillman admitted it was a “little surreal” Tuesday night to observe Boston reliever Hideki Okajima from the opposing dugout.

“The last time I saw him pitch,” Hillman recalled, “we were winning a championship in Japan in 2006.”

Okajima, 32, compiled a 2.14 ERA in 55 games for Hillman and the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2006 before signing a two-year deal with the Red Sox for $2.5 million with a club option for 2009 at $1.75 million.

LOOKING BACK

It was four years ago Thursday — May 22, 2004 — that Zack Greinke made his big-league debut by allowing two runs and five hits in five innings at Oakland.

“My main memory,” he said, “was a bases-loaded slow curve to Eric Chavez with two outs in the fifth inning. He made an out.”

Greinke handed over a two-run lead and was in position to get the victory until the A’s forced extra innings when Chavez hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning against Jeremy Affeldt.

Chavez’s homer came after an error by shortstop Angel Berroa extended the inning. Oakland won 5-4 in 11 innings on Bobby Crosby’s two-out RBI single against Scott Sullivan.

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