Norris back on hill, makes first rehab appearance

Hicks to visit specialist; Fulmer on track for rehab assignment

August 11th, 2018

DETROIT -- The Tigers aren't sure yet whether will make it back to the mound at Comerica Park again this season after surgery on his groin in early May. But the young left-hander is at least pitching again, starting a Minor League rehab assignment that puts him on schedule for a potential September callup.

Norris threw two innings Saturday morning in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League at Tigertown, allowing an unearned run on one hit with a walk and two strikeouts. His fastball sat around 90-91 mph, according to manager Ron Gardenhire.

The appearance marked Norris' first game action since April 29, when he left his start at Baltimore in the third inning with left groin tightness. A few days later, he underwent surgery to correct the issue once and for all, having dealt with groin and core muscle issues for the past few years.

Since then, Norris' rehab process has had its share of stops and starts as he works through lingering tightness and scar tissue. He felt "a little tight" at one point in his outing Saturday, Gardenhire said, but worked through it.

"It's just part of the process," Gardenhire said. "He has to get stretched out innings-wise, get away from Lakeland and see how his legs do. It's progress."

Norris can spend up to 20 days on rehab assignment, which would end just before rosters can expand Sept. 1. But the Tigers want to make sure he's feeling good and can throw pain-free at full effort before bringing him back to pitch.

"That's going to be up to the club if they want to do something like that," Gardenhire said. "It all depends on how he goes through the rehab."

It's a tricky balance the Tigers are trying to strike. Gardenhire doesn't want to bring Norris back to Detroit just to get a token appearance before season's end. At the same time, he and the Tigers need Norris to go into the offseason feeling confident about his health and his ability to pitch before heading into next Spring Training competing for a role with the club.

Hicks to see specialist about groin injury

Speaking of groin injuries, catcher/first baseman will visit the same specialist who operated on Norris. The appointment with Dr. William Meyers is scheduled for next Wednesday at Meyers' office in Philadelphia, where Hicks will undergo a second MRI exam on his right groin strain.

"The initial MRI just showed a sprained groin," Hicks said. "He wanted to see me and take another MRI just to kind of see it a little better. This is his area of expertise."

Meyers is one of the top specialists in the country in the core muscle area. He also operated on and former Tiger in previous years. The fact that Hicks is taking the trip and getting another MRI, rather than just having another MRI locally and sending over the results, suggests at least some level of concern, even if just as a precaution. But if it is something worse, Hicks said he wants to get it fixed as soon as possible so it doesn't cost him time next season.

Hicks said he had been playing through discomfort since before the All-Star break, wincing while running hard to first base Monday night.

Fulmer nearing rehab assignment

, currently on the 10-day DL with a left oblique strain, threw a 50-pitch bullpen session Saturday morning as he draws closer to a rehab assignment.

"Everything has been fine. He hasn't felt anything," Gardenhire said. "He's already trying to change his program, which we knew he would do. He's texting [pitching coach Rick Anderson], he's texting the trainers. We're just trying to back him off. Everything's going just like we want it to, and we'll just try to keep going."

Quick hits

• The Tigers put Jack Morris' Hall of Fame plaque on display in the team's clubhouse for players to admire and examine. The team will hold a special pregame ceremony Sunday for Morris, when his number 47 will be formally retired. Former teammates Lance Parrish and Dan Petry will speak about Morris as part of the ceremony.

• Triple-A Toledo athletic trainer Chris McDonald and Class A Connecticut trainer Sean McFarland have been named the athletic trainers of the year for the International League and NY-Penn League, respectively, by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.