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Norris, in return to closer role, stays perfect

Veteran answers call to get 4-out save against White Sox
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Bud Norris didn't know what his role would look like come May when he signed with the Cardinals in Spring Training. The 33-year-old righty has pitched in nearly every capacity over his 10-year career. But he knew he enjoyed "the taste" of closing he received last year, when he saved 19 games for the Angels.

Often still, his role can change from day to day. But merely a month into this season, his ability to shuffle between them and between innings has made him the Cardinals' most valuable reliever. As much was evident again Wednesday, when Norris recorded four outs to save St. Louis' 3-2 win over the White Sox.

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ST. LOUIS -- Bud Norris didn't know what his role would look like come May when he signed with the Cardinals in Spring Training. The 33-year-old righty has pitched in nearly every capacity over his 10-year career. But he knew he enjoyed "the taste" of closing he received last year, when he saved 19 games for the Angels.

Often still, his role can change from day to day. But merely a month into this season, his ability to shuffle between them and between innings has made him the Cardinals' most valuable reliever. As much was evident again Wednesday, when Norris recorded four outs to save St. Louis' 3-2 win over the White Sox.

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"Whether [signing here] meant pitching in the seventh, the eighth, or closing, it didn't matter to me," Norris said. "I just wanted to prove I could be a back-end bullpen guy, be a reliable source."

He's been the most reliable for the Cardinals, who feature a bullpen more in flux than that of most contending teams. Norris' four-out save Wednesday marked his sixth in six chances, and the first since the club removed Greg Holland from the closer role for the second time in a month.

"I'm very excited to know I'm the guy right now," Norris said. "I trust all the guys down there to do the job as well. I'm excited just to be a part of that."

Much of the Cardinals' attention remains focused on helping Holland, who owns a 7.36 ERA in 10 appearances, turn things around. But until -- and if -- he does, Norris remains Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's primary high-leverage option.

Matheny inserts him in the eighth, in the ninth, and in extras. He calls on Norris with leads and in tie games, and to hold small deficits where they stand. Norris has responded by pitching to a 1.72 ERA across 15 appearances, striking out 22 while walking just two.

"Its amazing how Bud has come in in big situations," Matheny said. "He's one of the guys who is pretty rare right now, who you can go to for four or five outs, and he figures out a way to get it done. What an addition to our club he's been."

Norris said he and Holland are more friends than rivals, saying the two are rooting for one another to succeed. The two regularly eat lunch together and talk the finer points of relief pitching,

"He's been a great teammate, and this is during a time he's struggling probably more than ever in his career. We want him back because he makes us better. When he gets better, we get better," Norris said. "I don't have to close, but I want to close. More than anything, I want to win a World Series. I'll pitch the fifth inning if it means winning a World Series."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Bud Norris