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Efficiency Norris' friend in scoreless start

Tigers starter finds success with 'three pitches or less' philosophy
MLB.com @beckjason

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Daniel Norris channeled some recent Tigers past when he talked about pitching philosophy after his three scoreless innings in Detroit's 8-5 loss to the Phillies on Sunday.

"I think today, if I was on my normal pitch count, was one of those days when I could go seven or eight innings," he said, "because I was just able to trust my stuff. If I can just try to get guys out in three pitches or less, three pitches give you that opportunity for a strikeout or you just get them out before that."

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Daniel Norris channeled some recent Tigers past when he talked about pitching philosophy after his three scoreless innings in Detroit's 8-5 loss to the Phillies on Sunday.

"I think today, if I was on my normal pitch count, was one of those days when I could go seven or eight innings," he said, "because I was just able to trust my stuff. If I can just try to get guys out in three pitches or less, three pitches give you that opportunity for a strikeout or you just get them out before that."

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The "three pitches or less" part should sound familiar, because it was David Price's credo during his brief tenure in Detroit. That time for Price ended two years ago with a trade to Toronto, a deal that brought Norris to Detroit.

Other than being left-handed and being traded for each other, comparing Price to Norris isn't fair. They're at different stages of their career, with different body frames, different histories and different arsenals. But for one Spring Training outing, Norris had that Price kind of outing. And if Norris can take some of that philosophy into his approach, it could help him find his own style.

"Quite honestly, that's how he needs to pitch," catcher James McCann said. "He's got the stuff that he can attack hitters. He doesn't have to try and trick guys."

Norris would not have been the favorite to be the first Tigers starter to go three innings this Spring Training. Yet, five days after Norris used 40 pitches to record five outs, despite not allowing a run, he needed just 42 -- including 30 strikes -- to retire nine of the 11 Phillies he faced. He recorded seven groundouts, including his first five batters in just 14 pitches.

Tweet from @beckjason: Daniel Norris is 1st Tigers starter to go 3 innings this spring. He threw 42 pitches, 30 for strikes. 7 groundouts.

In fact, Norris didn't allow a ball in the air, hit or out. His lone hit allowed was a Ryan Hanigan single through the left side. The correction he made in his delivery, after hurrying on too many pitches last time out, was consistent.

"I'm not really a ground-ball pitcher," Norris said, "but I saw my stuff get ground balls today because I was just attacking the zone. There were a couple times I missed up, but for the most part I was just trying to hit the knee guards. I was able to get ground balls off that. Granted, some were offspeed, but still, it's just as important. I can't try to throw the nastiest pitch every pitch."

That last sentence is something the Tigers, and manager Brad Ausmus, have tried to reinforce often.

"The stuff is there, as you saw today," Ausmus said. "It's just controlling the emotions when things aren't going well, to be able to continue to pitch when things seem to be spiraling in a bad direction."

He avoided damage in that situation his previous start, but needed a lot of pitches -- many of them out of the strike zone -- to do it. Whereas Price could suffer rapid-fire hits while trying to correct his mechanics issues, Norris can be the opposite. His trust in himself can work both ways.

"Not that I wasn't trying to attack guys last time," he said. "It's just your mechanics are going everywhere. But once you get in sync with that, I think just bodywise I felt more in sync than last time. I was able to attack the zone and trust my stuff."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Detroit Tigers, Daniel Norris