NEW YORK -- After having groin surgery at the beginning of May, there were points during his rehab that Daniel Norris did not think he would be able to pitch again this season. But on Saturday, the lefty made his return and tossed four perfect innings against the Yankees before
NEW YORK -- After having groin surgery at the beginning of May, there were points during his rehab that Daniel Norris did not think he would be able to pitch again this season. But on Saturday, the lefty made his return and tossed four perfect innings against the Yankees before a disappointing early departure due to left calf cramps in the fifth.
The Tigers have become all too familiar with the sight of head athletic trainer Doug Teter jogging out of the dugout when Norris is on the mound, but the team dodged a bullet when learning that the hurler did not aggravate his groin. Just prior to his exit, Norris allowed a two-run homer to Gleyber Torres that propelled New York to a 2-1 victory over Detroit at Yankee Stadium.
"We can't let him hurt himself. He's coming off this groin thing, the surgery, so we had to get him out of there," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He wanted to stay out there, but you start doing something, you're going to hurt your leg again. So we just got him off the field. He was throwing the ball great, the ball came out of his hand, his calf was just cramping."
Norris said the cramping occurred on and off since the second inning, but became constant when he warmed up prior to the fifth. He said he attempted to hide the pain to be able to stay in the game, but it became hard to fake by the end.
"I'm definitely very frustrated," Norris said. "Especially just the past four months, all the work that we've been doing down there in rehab and having to come out because of a cramp is not what I envisioned. It was nothing with the groin. All of that felt good. I just started feeling my calf would ball up here and there on fastballs and sliders, and it got to the point where I guess they saw something and wanted me to come out. Obviously, I didn't want to come out of the game, never want to, but it wasn't my choice at that point."
Norris retired the first 12 batters he faced before allowing a leadoff walk to Miguel Andujar to start the fifth. Through the first four frames, Norris' fastball velocity stayed mostly between 90 and 92 mph, but just prior to being pulled in the fifth, the speed of the heater dipped into the upper-80s.
"That's encouraging for sure," Norris said of keeping his fastball in the low-90s. "Obviously I'm used to being in the mid-90s. I think that will come in time, then everything else plays up as well. That's something to look forward to and work for as well."
In his first big league appearance since April 29, Norris allowed just the two-run blast and struck out seven with one walk over 4 1/3 frames. The bullpen followed the tone that Norris set, as Drew VerHagen, Buck Farmer, Daniel Stumpf and Victor Alcantara combined to throw 3 2/3 innings of one-hit ball.
The Tigers offense gave its starter some early support when singles by Michael Mahtook, Jim Adduci and Nicholas Castellanos loaded the bases to set up Victor Martinez for a sacrifice fly in the first, but Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka -- who allowed one run on seven hits through seven frames -- limited the damage to one run by retiring Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez to end the inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Trailing by one, Grayson Greiner doubled to start the seventh and JaCoby Jones singled and stole second to put runners on second and third with no outs, but the back-to-back base hits were wasted as Dawel Lugo to grounded out to first and Mahtook struck out before Adduci went down swinging on Tanaka's 89.3 mph splitter to end a seven-pitch at-bat.
The team was 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the evening and left eight men on base.
"I'm not really going to talk about it like it's easy because yesterday against [Luis] Severino I left a guy on third base. But you know, it's a hard game," Castellanos said. "I was talking to Mikie out in the outfield that that 88 [mph] split-finger that just backs up or just runs in, like what are you going to do with that? It's a hard game. You're going to fail a lot. You just got to bounce back and learn from it, but continue grinding."
Norris' seven strikeouts were the most recorded in a game by the left-hander since he fanned eight on June 16, 2017, against Tampa Bay.
HE SAID IT
"I mean, for me, it's just the opportunity. I was just very happy to be out there and be with the team again and competing with them. Results-wise, I'm sure it was good, but I'm just happy to be out there. It's been a long time and it was a really long process. It's just nice to be between those lines again." -- Norris
Matthew Boyd will get the ball in the series finale against the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. Boyd has never pitched at Yankee Stadium, but the Bronx Bombers have hit him for nine earned runs on 12 hits over 8 2/3 innings in two career starts. He's 2-9 with a 5.75 ERA on the road this year, including a loss at Kansas City in his last start Tuesday. Right-hander Lance Lynn will take the mound for the Yankees.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.