Catching coordinator lauds Norris' strides
Padres backstop excelling at framing pitches, throwing out runners
SAN DIEGO -- Ryley Westman, the Padres' Minor League catching coordinator, said he's aware of how pitch framing has become a popular point of discussion for not only teams and catchers but for fans, too.
"It should be a hot topic," Westman said. "If there's one area a catcher is going to contribute, it's how well can he dictate the strike zone?"
To that end, Westman, who was at Petco Park on Monday afternoon to check in with the team's catchers, said Derek Norris has made significant strides in terms of framing pitches since the start of the season.
"I think Derek has really taken his receiving to a different level this season," said Westman, who is in his first year with the organization. "He has done a good job quieting down the glove, presenting a good target and staying low with the pitch.
"He's really done some nice things on controlling the pitch."
According to Baseball Prospectus, Norris has gotten better this season in stealing strikes, or getting pitches outside the strike zone called for strikes. Entering play Monday, Norris ranked 16th in the big leagues with 21 "extra strikes."
A year ago, while with the A's, Norris finished the season with minus-15 extra strikes.
"It's, 'Can he get that fringe pitch that might be the difference in the ballgame?'" Westman said. "I think D-No has done a much better job, especially after the first month.
"A Major League strike zone is a very small zone. There's an artwork to that."
Norris also leads the big leagues in CCS (catcher caught stealing), throwing out a Major League-leading 28 would-be basestealers.
"The numbers speak for themselves. He has really focused every day on getting [good] direction with the feet, staying low. Whether you have a cannon for an arm or not, the footwork is going to be what comes into play," Westman said.
"He's done a good job on putting a good time [throwing to the bases] up there but also being accurate."
Westman makes the rounds of the Padres' Minor League affiliates and stops on occasion at Petco Park to check in with Norris and rookie Austin Hedges. He will talk with the staff as well while in town.
"It's different every month. I'll try to see as many of the affiliates as I can. It's a lot of travel but it's been an absolute blast," said Westman, who used to be with the Rangers and was hired by general manager A.J. Preller, also formerly of the Rangers.