Norris to pitch in Dominican, Japan after season

Tigers being cautious with Stewart (abdominal strain) vs. Brewers

September 28th, 2018

DETROIT -- has spent recent offseasons, among other things, surfing in Nicaragua, hiking in Utah, living on a beach in California, and -- of course -- going on a cross-country trek in his van. He will spend part of his upcoming offseason on pitching mounds in Japan and the Dominican Republic.

Though Norris' season for the Tigers ends Saturday with his start against the Brewers in the penultimate game on Detroit's schedule, the young left-hander is not done pitching. He'll spend a short stint next month pitching in Dominican winter ball for Aguilas Cibaenas before joining other Major Leaguers on a week-long All-Star Tour of Japan in exhibition games in November.

The extra work -- likely three starts in the Dominican and another start or two in Japan -- will allow Norris to recoup some of the innings he lost while recovering from groin surgery, which sidelined him from the end of April until an August rehab assignment. He has totaled 51 1/3 innings between his work in Detroit and his Minor League rehab starts, less than half the total he compiled last year between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers would like to boost that total, so that they might avoid putting an innings limit on him in 2019.

"It was pretty much a no-brainer, honestly," Norris said. "It's a really awesome opportunity [to go on the Japan tour], and it kind of came out of nowhere. I was really excited about it. It's going to be a lot of fun."

More important than numbers, the extra work allows Norris to continue to work on his delivery and mechanics and build muscle memory before he starts his offseason training. Norris' September stint has been compared to Spring Training, not only in terms of building up arm strength and endurance, but also for polishing and repeating his mechanics.

"Coming back from surgery, I just wasn't able to really throw for a long time, so I'm still ironing things out," Norris said. "I'm feeling a lot of progress. This is just continuing that. I'll still have enough time off to train."

Once the Japan tour ends, Norris plans on working out again at Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara, Calif., to build up core strength. He also is considering working out with Pirates pitcher at his facility in Houston afterward.

All this comes ahead of a 2019 season that looms as crucial for Norris, who's eligible for arbitration this offseason. While the Tigers have a handful of starting pitching prospects that form the foundation of the team's rebuild, they aren't expected to begin arriving until late next season at the earliest. That gives Norris next year at age 26 to stake his claim to a spot beforehand.

<p. a="" barring="" move="" surprise="">Stewart sidelined by abdominal strain

The Twins had a hard time stopping Christin Stewart on Thursday night with three hits and a walk. The Brewers might not have that challenge this weekend, thanks to a lower abdominal strain that kept Stewart out of Friday's lineup and could sideline him the rest of the series. </p.>

The injury didn't happen on any particular play on Thursday, according to Stewart, who made a leaping catch to rob Joe Mauer early in the game after speeding around the bases on an inside-the-park home-run attempt the night before.

"I don't know, it was random," Stewart said. "I don't really know what to say. I want to play, obviously. I don't think I'm going to finish the season playing."

Manager Ron Gardenhire is leaving the door open for a return this weekend, but he also made it clear they're being cautious given the point in the season.

"I'm not going to let him hurt it again," Gardenhire said, "but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and go day to day. He wants to play, like all players, but it doesn't make sense. He's done what he needs to do. He's shown us what he can do here. He's swinging good. I don't want him to go out there and have to come out of the game hurt. I don't like that."

If Stewart doesn't play this weekend, he'll end the season batting .267 (16-for-60) in 17 September games with a double, triple, two home runs, 10 RBIs, 10 walks and 13 strikeouts.

Quick hits

• Ken Kal, radio play-by-play voice of the Detroit Red Wings, is filling the same role for the Tigers this weekend. He's filling in for Dan Dickerson, who tweeted that he's in Cleveland this weekend for his niece's wedding.

• With no designated hitter in a National League park, Norris will get his first at-bats in a regular-season in two years. Norris, who homered at Wrigley Field in his first Major League at-bat in 2015, said he has no restrictions after groin surgery but will likely be cautious. He suffered an oblique strain in that same 2015 game in which he homered.