ATLANTA -- Instead of being defeated by all that went wrong during this season's first month or by the fact that he felt wronged as he spent this season's second month in the bullpen, Bud Norris has provided a clear glimpse of his fighting spirit since being given the opportunity
ATLANTA -- Instead of being defeated by all that went wrong during this season's first month or by the fact that he felt wronged as he spent this season's second month in the bullpen, Bud Norris has provided a clear glimpse of his fighting spirit since being given the opportunity to rejoin Atlanta's starting rotation.
Norris was understandably upset when his bid to rebound from last year's struggles was halted by the transition he made to the bullpen after just five starts. But over the course of his past five starts, the Braves right-hander has silenced his doubters and repeatedly displayed his potential worth with performances like the one during Sunday afternoon's 5-2 win over the Mets.
"Sometimes a little kick in the butt helps," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "When he went down to the bullpen, he started pitching great and he wanted to get back in the rotation every single day. He wanted to get that chance and he's been lights-out ever since he came back in [the rotation]."
Norris allowed just four hits and registered a season-high eight strikeouts over seven scoreless innings against the Mets. The Braves have won each of the past four games started by the rejuvenated veteran, who has posted a 2.15 ERA over the five starts he has made since making an unexpected return to the rotation when Mike Foltynewicz was placed on the disabled list.
"These are quality starts against good teams," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We've won the last four games he's started. He's giving us a chance, he's been very competitive and we need him right now. He's filling a big spot in our rotation, and we're counting on him."
While Norris has certainly played a key role as the Braves have won eight of their past 11 games with two starting pitchers -- Foltynewicz and Williams Perez -- on the disabled list, he has also seemingly made himself much more attractive to teams that will attempt to acquire a starting pitcher before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Norris produced a 6.79 ERA in the 11 starts he made before being released by the Orioles last year and then posted an 8.74 ERA in the five starts he made this year before the Braves decided they would rather fill his rotation spot with one of their younger starters. However, he did win 15 games and made two postseason starts for the 2014 Orioles. Thus, there might be some teams willing to buy in on his recent success with the Braves.
As Norris struggled throughout April, he surrendered six home runs (including two grand slams) over 22 2/3 innings and allowed opponents to produce a .340 batting average and a .398 on-base percentage. Some mechanical changes he made while spending a productive month in the bullpen have proven beneficial. He has limited opponents to a .200 batting average and a .254 on-base percentage in the 29 1/3 innings completed since rejoining Atlanta's rotation.
"I've been battling my body for a year-plus now," Norris said. "I know a couple mechanical things I need to do to get me in line with home plate and to throw to both sides of the plate. Mechanics and timing is so big for a pitcher, and just being comfortable."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.