Seventeen years after Curt Schilling famously pitched through a bloody sock at Yankee Stadium, Daniel Norris pitched through a bloody thumb.
It didn’t have nearly the same ramifications. Schilling was helping pitch the Red Sox toward an amazing comeback in the 2004 American League Championship Series. Norris was simply pitching the eighth inning of a 10-0 Tigers loss, though his work saved manager A.J. Hinch from having to use a position player to pitch. Norris’ bloody left thumb, though, was a similarly odd look as he continued to pitch.
The blood was enough that it was visible on the telecast. It was concerning enough in person that catcher Wilson Ramos called Hinch and head athletic trainer Doug Teter out of the dugout to check on the left-hander. But according to Hinch, it wasn’t any sign of injury.
“When he grips his changeup, his nail on the first finger digs into that area of skin in between your thumb and your hand,” Hinch explained after the game. “And it cut open tonight. That’s pretty routine for him, so it’s kind of always reopening an old little cut.
“But we got out there and he said he felt fine. He could throw all his pitches. Ramos saw it, I think he got a little bit nervous about it and called us out there. And then D-No wanted to continue. It wasn’t an issue; it just looked worse than it felt.”
The changeup is Norris’ strikeout pitch, producing his highest swing-and-miss rate each season from 2018-20. It has not been as effective this year, but he was working with it Friday; his three changeups averaged 1,450 rpm, more than 100 rpm below his average changeup spin rate for this year and any previous season since he developed the pitch a few years ago.
Norris finished with a scoreless inning, scattering two hits. He has 3 2/3 scoreless innings over his past five outings since giving up runs in three of his first four appearances. He has normally been saved for left-handed hitters, but his ability to get righties out makes him a versatile member of the bullpen in close games.
Boyd likely to pitch next weekend
Matthew Boyd won’t make his scheduled turn in the Tigers' rotation next Tuesday in Boston, but he’s expected to start when the team returns home to face the Twins next weekend. He’s expected to avoid the injured list after leaving his start Thursday in Chicago with left knee tendinitis.
“Boyd is doing well,” Hinch said. “He’s going to do kind of rehab therapy stuff. He’s moving around great, feels good.”
The Tigers will have a better idea of Boyd’s timetable once he plays catch on Sunday.
Not much of a Bronx cheer for Hinch
Friday marked Hinch’s first visit to Yankee Stadium since he managed the Astros there during the 2019 ALCS. He faced several questions about the potential for a shower of boos from Yankees fans still angry about the Astros’ sign-stealing issue, but Hinch didn’t receive much of a reaction when he brought out the lineup card before the game, nor when he made mound visits.
Hinch was up-front about the issue leading into the game, as he has been ever since taking the Tigers job last fall, saying it’s something he’ll have to deal with the rest of his career but has nothing to do with his team.
“I think that Yankee fans largely ignored me and focused on their coming back off their road trip,” Hinch said. “I get asked questions about it. There’s always going to be one-offs. I guess I’m relatively numb to it with an expectation that people can kind of say whatever they want to say from the stands. But I didn’t notice anything [Friday] at all.”
The lineup-card exchange did have one notable change: Neither Hinch nor Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin wore masks as they met at home plate. Both the Tigers and Yankees have had COVID-19 protocols relaxed by having more than 85 percent of their players and Tier 1 staff fully vaccinated, so they didn’t have to wear face coverings on the field or in the dugout. They’re two of the four teams to have the protocols relaxed, but they’re the first such teams to face each other.
“It is an adjustment,” Hinch said.