The Detroit Tigers are expecting big things from former Vancouver Canadians pitcher Daniel Norris in 2017. The key piece of the David Price trade in 2015 was enjoying a solid spring until he was rocked for nine runs over three-plus innings by the Atlanta Braves at Monday night. What was the cause of his rough outing that saw his earned run average balloon from 3.00 to 6.43? It was a case of dead arm and Norris was not happy about it.
“You try to come out here and throw and, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing,” he said. “Walking off the mound, people are like cheering, ‘finally, this dude’s out of there,’ that’s just embarrassing.
“I love this game more than anything, and I go out there and embarrass myself. It’s frustrating. There’s no way around it – I embarrassed myself, embarrassed my team; it’s just not me.”
In Monday’s outing, MLive.com noted Norris’ fastball dropped five miles per hour from 94 to 89. He will get one more spring tune up Saturday against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter.
The 23 year-old lefthander from Johnson City, Tennessee has dealt with much bigger setbacks during his baseball career. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when he was with the Blue Jays but managed to keep on pitching during the 2015 season. He was declared cancer free near the end of October that year after a malignant growth from his thyroid was removed.
The Blue Jays drafted Norris in the second round, 74th overall, in the 2011 draft out of Science Hill High School in Johnson City, giving him a signing bonus of $2 million. He made his pro debut with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2012 and it was a good one as he tossed four perfect innings of relief with five strikeouts to earn the victory against the Bristol Pirates June 19. Norris had a 3.38 ERA after his first six outings with the Bluef-Jays but the Appalachian League really teed off on him as he was rocked for a pair of seven-run outings and two five-run outings, causing his ERA to shoot up to 7.97.
Despite the ugly numbers, Norris would be called up to Vancouver to help the C’s in their playoff drive in August but his Nat Bailey Stadium debut was one to forget as the Boise Hawks hammered him for eight runs in 3-1/3 innings August 25. Norris did redeem himself with a better outing in Yakima with 4-1/3 innings of one-run ball to conclude the 2012 regular season, chopping his ERA down from 21.60 to 10.57.
Daniel Norris was not in Vancouver for a long time in 2012 but was there for a good time as the C’s repeated as Northwest League champions.
Those two appearances were the only ones for Norris with Vancouver. He was on the roster for the C’s playoff run but he never saw action against the Everett AquaSox in the West Division final or against the Boise Hawks in the Northwest League final. Still, he got to join the dogpile at Boise Memorial Stadium when the C’s won the third and deciding game to repeat as NWL champions.
Despite a rough rookie season in 2012, Norris managed to make it to the majors in 2014 and struck out David Ortiz in his big league debut at Fenway Park September 5. His first major league start came against Seattle at the Dome on September 25 and he managed to get through 3-1/3 innings before turning things over to the bullpen. I was fortunate enough to be at that game and this is what I had to say about Norris’ effort on Batter’s Box.
The most encouraging part of the game was Daniel Norris battling his way through 3-1/3 innings in which he was charged with two runs on a hit and two walks. His line looked worse after Todd Redmond coughed up the lead later that inning. Still, Norris struck out Robinson Cano swinging on an 82-MPH changeup for his lone whiff. He was clocked as high as 94 with his fastball, which settled in around 89-91. He also threw a 69-MPH curveball to retire Michael Saunders on a fly ball and threw sliders in the low-to-mid-80s. He retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced before running out of gas. Though just 29 of his 59 pitches were thrown for strikes, Norris was able to gut it out as he underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow after the season.
Norris earned his first victory in 2015 against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium April 9 but his Blue Jays tenure was over at the end of April as he was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Marco Estrada in the starting rotation. Norris was then traded to Detroit with two other lefties – former Vancouver Canadian Jairo Labourt and Matt Boyd – to get Price just before the trade deadline in July.
Price was a huge reason why the Blue Jays won the American League East in 2015, their first division title in 22 years. However, the Tigers could see the man who lives in a van paying off huge dividends for them down the line. Despite suffering an oblique strain last year, Norris won four of six decisions with a 3.38 ERA for Detroit in 2016 and could have a breakout season if he can stay healthy in 2017.