Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Rejuvenated Norris makes clubhouse visit

MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- The beard is still trimmed, but the hair is starting to grow out again. Whatever the look, the presence of Daniel Norris is unmistakable when he walks into the Tigers' clubhouse.

As Tigers players and officials said hello to the injured left-hander, who made the hour-long drive from Lakeland, Norris clearly remains among the most popular teammates. As he rehabs his way to health from April surgery on his groin, his goal is to become a popular presence on the mound again -- and not just for his personality.

View Full Game Coverage

ST. PETERSBURG -- The beard is still trimmed, but the hair is starting to grow out again. Whatever the look, the presence of Daniel Norris is unmistakable when he walks into the Tigers' clubhouse.

As Tigers players and officials said hello to the injured left-hander, who made the hour-long drive from Lakeland, Norris clearly remains among the most popular teammates. As he rehabs his way to health from April surgery on his groin, his goal is to become a popular presence on the mound again -- and not just for his personality.

View Full Game Coverage

"For a while, I was just not pitching like myself," Norris said. "I think it was the right decision to get this done and figure it out finally. … It was definitely a reset button. I needed it."

Norris has thrown off a mound four times at the Tigers' Spring Training facility, including twice recently after being shut down for a bit with discomfort. That turned out to be scar tissue from the surgery, he said, and he has felt better since.

The agility he had lacked through groin and oblique injuries, Norris said, has also returned. He has been able to follow through on pitches like he hasn't been able to do in a year or two.

"As I started feeling more comfortable, it was pretty clear the way the ball's coming out of my hand," Norris said. "I was cutting [the ball] a lot during the season just because I couldn't get out there. And then immediately my first few times off the mound, my stride was 3-4 inches longer than it was."

The analytical evidence backs up what Norris has been feeling, and the tough part now is tempering that enthusiasm with patience. Detroit wants him to take his time: Manager Ron Gardenhire said last week that while Norris could pitch again for the Tigers this season, it's not something they're counting on.

Norris gets it. With the Tigers rebuilding and a young group of pitchers on the rise, he wants to make sure he's in his best form when he returns to try to claim a spot.

"I'm looking forward to competing again," Norris said, "but right now, it's getting everything taken care of, and making sure I don't have any reservations when I get on the mound. It's going well."

Gardenhire bracing for moves
The Tigers' move to bring back reliever Drew VerHagen from the disabled list had been expected for several days, as was the return move of sending Artie Lewicki back to Triple-A Toledo. But Lewicki's return to the Mud Hens rotation has a particular emphasis, one that Gardenhire hinted at Monday afternoon with baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline three weeks away.

"We need to stretch [Lewicki] out," Gardenhire said. "With everything going on here -- and who knows what's going to happen -- we need starting pitching to be stretched out if something does happen. And he's sitting here with two innings here, three innings there. He needs to pitch as one of our starters. We're going to try to get Hardy a little more length, too, if we can."

In other words, if the Tigers trade a starter or two, Gardenhire wants to make sure they have somebody ready to step in, both in a pinch and for the stretch run.

The potential urgency was apparent Monday night as scouts gathered to watch Francisco Liriano start opposite Chris Archer in the series opener. Michael Fulmer won't pitch this series but is expected to start this weekend at Houston before the All-Star break. Fulmer's start Sunday at Comerica Park did not draw a heavy scouting presence, but that is not believed to have any correlation to the potential trade interest.

Quick hits
Jeimer Candelario was sent back to the team hotel Monday afternoon with flu-like symptoms. Ronny Rodriguez started at third base for the third time in five days.

"[Candelario] woke up with the whole package," Gardenhire said.

• Credit VerHagen for a sense of humor when asked if he had tested his injury, a broken nose, during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo.

"I took a throw at first. I caught the ball," said VerHagen, who missed the throw that hit him in the nose last month in Cincinnati.

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

Detroit Tigers, Daniel Norris