Bannister, the son of former major league left-hander Floyd Bannister, was a walk-on second baseman at USC before being converted to a full-time pitcher his sophomore season. He was on the same staff as the Cubs' Mark Prior.
"This is something I've been looking forward to for a long time," Bannister said. "I've been working very hard for this opportunity."
Bannister made the rotation as the fifth starter the last week of spring training when the Mets decided they would be better off with Aaron Heilman in the bullpen.
Bannister was to have started Sunday against Florida, but his start was moved up because of Victor Zambrano's tight hamstring.
"I expect a good-pitched game from him," manager Willie Randolph said. "He had a good spring for us, and I hope it continues. I expect he'll pitch well and give us a chance to win."
Beltran, who was injured last season, said throughout spring training he is more relaxed and insisted he's not discouraged.
"The only thing I can do is continue to work hard, stay healthy, and at the end of the year it's going to be a different story," he said.
"It was pretty neat to be here and start out this way," Nady said. "I just go out and play hard, and obviously you're not going to get four hits every day."
"I know, Mariano's got it," Wagner said. "Lord forbid, the Earth should crumble if two people have it. I play for the Mets. He plays for the Yankees. I never have to face him, and he never has to face me. So there's really no big competition there."
BY THE NUMBERS: 1-for-28 -- OF Xavier Nady's slump late in spring training.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, spring training is not the best barometer for how you base these guys but, you know, he was 0-for-20 or whatever and he had a couple knocks, so that's why you don't put a lot of emphasis on games like this because you can turn it around in one day." -- Manager Willie Randolph on OF Xavier Nady snapping his slump with a three-hit game.