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Norris' command issues lead to short outing

Tigers lefty derailed by Royals' back-to-back home runs
MLB.com

DETROIT -- In 24-year-old left-hander Daniel Norris, the Tigers have a pitcher they know is capable of dominance. But while he continues to work through command issues, the club has had to accept that growing pains are part of the process.

"It's kind of been the same story with Daniel since his arrival," manager Brad Ausmus said after Wednesday night's 8-2 loss to the Royals. "His stuff has always been there, and that's why you see flashes of dominance. But we gotta see some growth in the command side. He's gotta be able to locate the ball better at the big league level, or nights like tonight happen."

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DETROIT -- In 24-year-old left-hander Daniel Norris, the Tigers have a pitcher they know is capable of dominance. But while he continues to work through command issues, the club has had to accept that growing pains are part of the process.

"It's kind of been the same story with Daniel since his arrival," manager Brad Ausmus said after Wednesday night's 8-2 loss to the Royals. "His stuff has always been there, and that's why you see flashes of dominance. But we gotta see some growth in the command side. He's gotta be able to locate the ball better at the big league level, or nights like tonight happen."

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Norris cruised through two hitless innings with two strikeouts on 23 pitches. Even in the third, after a quick score, he induced a double-play grounder and a flyout to escape on nine pitches. Norris' problems surfaced in a four-run fourth, ending his night.

The Royals connected for six hits in a span of seven batters -- including back-to-back homers by Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas -- to chase Norris from the game. The home runs in particular told the tale for Norris, as they came on 3-0 and 1-0 counts, respectively.

Video: KC@DET: Perez and Moustakas go back-to-back in 4th

"Yeah, 3-0 fastball down and away, [Perez] just got extended on it," Norris said. "And then the one to Moustakas, I just completely missed. I was trying to go down and away, it went up and in. Wasn't a really good release on that one."

Norris' 3 2/3 innings and 65 pitches were his season lows. The last time he didn't complete four innings or throw at least 80 pitches was July 4, 2016, when he exited after two innings with a strained oblique against the Indians.

Norris has been on-and-off with his command several times this season. Perhaps the outing that most accurately mirrored Wednesday's start was on May 19 against Texas. He sped through the first two innings on 27 pitches while striking out two, before giving up three runs the next two innings, including a bases-loaded walk

Video: KC@DET: Ausmus discusses pitching in 8-2 loss

Ausmus said he's noticed Norris is more stoic on the mound than he used to be when things go awry. But catcher Alex Avila suggested that days after a tough start can be the most taxing on pitchers.

"As a starter, you have four days to kind of fester on it," Avila said. "So it can be even more difficult, where with an everyday player, you have an opportunity the next day to kind of make up for it."

Norris said his confidence hasn't faltered, and for good reason. He logged eight straight starts of five-plus innings before Wednesday, and he hasn't lost anything on his mid-90s fastball, which has helped him record 77 strikeouts in 81 innings.

"He wants to be so good, like, right now," Avila said. "And I think at times that gets the better of him. He's gotta be able to enjoy what he's doing. Allow himself to look around, you're in a big league ballpark, try to take in the moment rather than just try to rush to be the best. Be able to accept the process."

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers, Daniel Norris