Bud Norris, the X factor?
While the Orioles' search for a veteran starter has turned up nothing so far, Norris was listed in an MLB.com column earlier this week as one of the top 10 players in baseball who can directly affect his team's fortune.
It's an interesting concept, as the article defends the choice of Norris -- who is listed with Yankees ace CC Sabathia and Dodgers star Matt Kemp, among others -- stating, "Norris occasionally seemed on the brink of a breakthrough during his five seasons with the Astros. If he does become that guy, the Orioles are plenty good enough to hang with the Red Sox and Rays in the [American League] East."
It also echoes the sentiment that the right-hander had earlier this month at the team's FanFest. That the real Norris, who was scratched from a September start with elbow soreness that plagued him the final month of the 2013 season, has yet to arrive in Baltimore.
"I absolutely believe that, 100 percent," Norris said of O's fans still waiting to see what last season's Trade Deadline acquisition can add to the staff.
"I came over in a whirlwind. It was a crazy time for me in my career, and I was excited for it, but to really have this offseason to refresh my mind and everything else and take care of those nagging things I had at the end of [last] season, I'm really excited to show this team and this city what I can do."
Norris went 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA for Baltimore after posting a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts for Houston, where he had spent his entire big league career until the July 31 deal sent him to the Orioles. He was the frontline starter for a lot of struggling Astros teams, and if he is able to emerge as an impact pitcher, it would be a huge boon for an uncertain O's rotation.
With a healthy elbow and the experience of two months in the AL East, the Orioles are hoping Norris can take a step forward. Pitching in what is often considered baseball's toughest division had its bumps for the 28-year-old.
"There's a lot," Norris said of the adjustment. "Slower game, slower pace, I think is something you really have to put in your arsenal. You have to be mentally strong in those situations, to know that stuff's going to go on. But slowing the game down is something you can teach anybody at any time. But the fact of the matter is, we've got to go out there and play 60 feet, six inches, and believe in what you've got."
Norris, like the rest of the Orioles, will adjust to a new pitching coach in Dave Wallace and a new bullpen coach in Dom Chiti. Wallace, who was formerly working in the Braves' Minor League system, will be tasked with helping some of the organization's pitchers take the next step, a challenge that will be even harder should the O's not add a veteran pitcher.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette repeatedly has said that the Orioles hope to add a starter, but with Spring Training around the corner, there's a very real possibility they won't be able to add an impact arm.
Norris, who is expected to part of a rotation that includes Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez, has the chance to step up behind Tillman and give the O's a real boost as they pursue a posteason spot in 2014.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.