Deal official, Cards envision flex role for Norris

February 12th, 2018

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has made it clear already this spring that a theme of his camp will be purpose.
"We will be very intentional about everything we do," Matheny said.
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When discussing newly acquired right-hander , whom the Cardinals officially signed to a one-year deal Wednesday, Matheny was intentionally vague.
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Starter? Reliever? Closer? Norris has done all three in his career.
"He's just a pitcher," said Matheny, careful not to specify. "I think it's really important for our guys to figure out how to come in here and just pitch. Come out and fight for innings."
Fact is, the Cardinals don't know yet which role they'll most need Norris in, so they're planning to prepare him for all three. Norris, who closed for the Angels last season after spending most of his career as a starter, will stretch his arm out early this spring as a starter would. If needed, he could provide depth to a rotation with health and experience questions, particularly on the back end. There is a good chance he helps in the bullpen at some point as well, perhaps in the late innings.
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"He gives us some flexibility," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "I don't want to say there are question marks in the rotation. But he gives us the ability if we need someone to eat some innings. You also look at the first half of last year and the impact he had in their bullpen. That's certainly something we're trying to capture."
To make room for Norris on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals designated Minor League righty for assignment. Wick, a former outfielder, reached Triple-A Memphis last season, but struggled there. He hit 30 home runs over his first two professional seasons as before converting to pitching in 2015. The British Columbia native's fastball approaches triple digits, but he has struggled to develop secondary pitches. He could remain with the organization if he clears waivers.
Norris will wear uniform No. 26. The deal will reportedly pay Norris a $3 million base salary.
With a new team and armed with a new cutter, Norris transitioned to relief pitching full-time last year after eight big league seasons as a starter. The 32-year-old right-hander spent his first five seasons with the Astros before drifting into bullpen roles with the Orioles, Padres and Braves. He emerged as an early-season surprise for the Angels in 2017, but lingering knee injuries ultimately led to an uneven season. Norris saved 13 games with a 2.23 ERA in the first half; in the second his ERA was 7.01. Overall, Norris went 2-6 with a 4.21 ERA and 19 saves last season. He also made three starts.
"We'll see where the things unfold," Matheny said. "He had a real nice start to the season last year in a different role."