Dazzling debut: Norris thrills new team
Lefty stifles Orioles over 7 1/3 innings to earn win
BALTIMORE -- Daniel Norris had a three-run lead before he threw his first pitch as a Tiger. He also had his catcher impressed. James McCann had barely met Norris, facing him in Spring Training. Together with pitching coach Jeff Jones, McCann and Norris had to come up with a game plan for an Orioles lineup that had blistered Tigers pitching the past three nights.
"We didn't necessarily talk about what we wanted to do to each hitter," McCann said. "We just talked about how we wanted to approach the lineup as a whole, how we were going to use his stuff to have success. And he followed the game plan."
Norris followed with 7 1/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball for his second Major League win in Detroit's 6-1 victory. It was his first Tigers start, three days after joining the organization.
"He's the type of guy you get back for David Price," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the clubs split a four-game series.
The impression on McCann, though, went beyond the box score.
"The results are obvious. Anyone can look and see how successful he was today and say, 'Wow, this kid's good,'" McCann said. "But I think the thing that impressed me the most was the process, how he got the results, the demeanor on the mound, his poise, the pace that he pitched, how fast he got the ball and got up on the rubber and said, 'Let's go.' No matter who stepped in the box, he was in attack mode. He made adjustments on the fly."
Norris turned 22 in April. He's best known for the van he lived in during Spring Training. The more he pitches like this, the more attention his pitching is going to draw.
He pitched beyond his years, and sounded more mature as well.
"You always want to make a good impression, but you have to stay within yourself," Norris said. "If you go out there and try to do too much, then the wheels can fall off pretty quickly."
Norris spent the opening month of the season in the Blue Jays' rotation but was optioned out for more seasoning after throwing 78 pitches over three scoreless innings in his fifth start. On Sunday, he took the mound for the eighth inning at 79 pitches.
He saw how aggressive the Orioles' lineup was for three nights, and he used that against them, throwing a heavy fastball that broke bats and missed barrels.
"He's just got good finish on the fastball," manager Brad Ausmus said. "To hitters, it looks like it's at your belt, and it's really above your belly button."
Aside from the lone walk, Norris had just three three-ball counts, two of them ending in strikeouts. He recorded eight outs on the first or second pitch. He went from two men on and nobody out in the second inning to ending the threat in two pitches -- one a diving catch on his part on a J.J. Hardy sacrifice bunt, the other a ground-ball double play.
"I always complain I never get cool PFP [pitchers' fielding practice] plays," Norris said of his catch. "When he bunted, I thought, 'I'm laying out for this.'"
He recovered from Chris Davis' fourth-inning home run to retire Baltimore's next 12 batters. He pitched in and out of patterns, used a changeup he could cut and fade, spotted his fastball on corners, mixed in a few two-seamers and kept out of trouble.
If he wasn't making his first start as a Tiger, Ausmus admitted, he might've given him a chance for the complete game. He took him out after Jonathan Schoop's one-out single in the eighth to make sure Norris left with a good feeling. So, too, did the Tigers.