Norris' effort provides a silver lining

June 5th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Though he has spent more than a year battling frequent frustration, Bud Norris has maintained a smug sense of confidence and provided every indication that he relishes any opportunity to prove his doubters wrong.

The odds were certainly stacked against Norris when he took the Dodger Stadium mound on Saturday night to make his first start since April 27. The Braves' veteran right-hander had one day to prepare for this unexpected matchup against Clayton Kershaw. But he didn't blink as he nearly matched the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner through five innings and provided his club some hope before the Dodgers pulled away for a 4-0 win.

"You're always going to have doubters," Norris said. "There's more than you can ask for, but at the end of the day, it's about having confidence in yourself and confidence in your teammates."

Norris' teammates certainly respected the unselfish effort he provided as he limited the Dodgers to one run over five innings. This was initially going to simply be a spot-start that was assigned on Friday when Mike Foltynewicz was scratched and placed on the disabled list because of a bone spur in his right elbow.

Though Norris had thrown more than 30 pitches just twice in the 37 days since his most recent start, Norris had no problem with the fact that he ended up throwing 91 pitches -- his highest total since April 16. He really hadn't been stretched out since throwing 60 pitches during a May 17 relief stint in Kansas City. But he overcame inevitable fatigue with the determination he showed while pitching around the three walks he issued over his final two innings.

"He was impressive," Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "When you've been in the 'pen now for a month and you do that, that showed a lot of guts."

A pair of seeing-eye singles and a walk accounted for the only run surrendered by Norris, who certainly earned the right to make at least one more start while Foltynewicz remains on the DL. But his goal is to regain a firm spot in the rotation and another chance to prove why he worked so hard this past offseason to distance himself from the frustration felt last year, when he posted a 6.79 ERA over 11 starts before being released by the Orioles.

"Obviously, April didn't go the way I wanted, and I embraced the bullpen spot the best I could and threw the ball well down there to help this team," Norris said. "But the opportunity arose and I chomped at the bit to get back in there. I kept tugging on [manager Brian Snitker's] ear because I wanted to do that. It was fun to go out there and compete and have a good night. "

And, of course, silence his doubters.

"You just go out there, play hard and play with the glass half full and believe in yourself," Norris said. "I've done it for a long time, and it's been a crazy roller-coaster ride."