LOS ANGELES -- Bud Norris was not brought in to replace Clayton Kershaw. Manager Dave Roberts made that perfectly clear before Friday's game against the Rockies. He didn't have to strike out a bunch of guys or shut batters down for as long as the team needed him.And yet, he
LOS ANGELES -- Bud Norris was not brought in to replace Clayton Kershaw. Manager Dave Roberts made that perfectly clear before Friday's game against the Rockies. He didn't have to strike out a bunch of guys or shut batters down for as long as the team needed him.
And yet, he did. Norris struck out eight over six scoreless innings to give the Dodgers a 5-0 win and start his Los Angeles career as well as anyone could have reasonably hoped for.
"No higher expectation than he had from himself," Roberts said. "He's been throwing the ball really well and it's kind of a whirlwind for him, no side session this week. Six innings and he pitched really well, so there were a lot of good things out of him tonight."
The Dodgers acquired Norris from the Braves on Thursday to fill Kershaw's spot in the rotation after the ace hit the disabled list with a back injury, easily the most significant blow of the several sustained by the team's pitching depth.
The right-hander learned of the trade as he entered Turner Field on Thursday, and was soon on a flight to Los Angeles. It was the third time in four years he had been traded midseason, but nowhere near the most abrupt.
"I got traded to Baltimore and I changed dugouts, that was how quick it was for me last time," Norris said. "It's just kind of a whirlwind thing, but at the end of the day I just want to pitch and be ready when I step on the mound."
While Norris had a miserable start to 2016, getting demoted to the bullpen on the lowly Braves after racking up an 8.74 ERA, his excellent June made him a trade target that the Dodgers reached for out of necessity. His 2.08 ERA and .194 batting average against put him among the National League's best for the month.
He definitely got July off to a good start, allowing two hits across six innings. Roberts said he expected more balls in play, but noted the right-hander's velocity explained the strong results.
"Everything [was working]," Norris said. "You got to throw to both sides of the plate, that's a good hitting ballclub over there. Cutter was good, slider was good, and four-seam, sinker to both sides. I had a good mix and [catcher Yasmani] Grandal called a good game."
Norris surpassed expectations on Friday, but that shouldn't be a reason to raise expectations even further for his next start. He remains a fill-in with a track record around league average. There is no replacing Kershaw until Kershaw returns from the DL.
However, when Kershaw enters the Dodger Stadium clubhouse again, he might have to talk to a new teammate about a certain hit-by-pitch in his last start against the Braves.
"I had to face him last time I was here and ended up getting drilled by him, so I got to talk to him about that," Norris said.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.