Norris joins Tigers with eyes on playoff push
BALTIMORE -- No, Daniel Norris isn't going to be living in a van in Detroit. He has a car, and he'll have a place to live. And if he can translate his pitching potential into big league success, he'll likely have a home.
Get past the stories of his quirks, from the Volkswagen van Norris lived in during Spring Training to the $800 monthly allowance on which he reportedly subsides, and there's a soft-spoken, hard-throwing left-hander with several above-average pitches and a chance to help the Tigers immediately, starting Sunday at Camden Yards against the Orioles. And for that, the 22-year-old Norris feels like he hit the Trade Deadline jackpot.
"I feel like I couldn't be put in a better situation, an immediate opportunity to compete in the big leagues," Norris said Saturday. "I'm happy about that, kind of itching to get out there and throw."
He's not looking at it as an audition for next season, but a chance for now with a team that still has something to play for. That sentiment could mean plenty with his new teammates, some of whom have been playing angry ever since the front office decided to become sellers.
"I've just got to go out there and win ballgames at the end of the day," Norris said. "I was looking, we're what, 3 1/2 games out or something like that? That's 100 percent still in it. So, heck, I want to go out there and win and compete."
It's more than he could've envisioned out of a Deadline deal, though it didn't totally surprise him. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos called him at the start of the week and told him they weren't going to deal him, but that was before the Tigers made David Price available. Anthopoulos gave Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski his choice of prospects. Dombrowski wanted Norris, the 17th-rated prospect in all of baseball in MLBPipeline.com's preseason rankings.
"[Anthopoulos] called me before it all went down to apologize," Norris said. "He said, 'Hey, listen, at the time [Price] wasn't available. This is a deal I can't not make, simple as that.' I 100 percent understand. This is good for me."
He's a left-hander with a mid-90s fastball, two-seamer, changeup, slider and curveball, and a growing understanding of how to repeat his mechanics to put them to good use. And after spending much of his summer at Triple-A Buffalo trying to figure out how to pitch deeper into games, getting away from his strengths, he knows who he is as a pitcher: A high-strikeout southpaw with velocity.
In that sense, he's the kind the pitcher the Tigers haven't had in a while.
"I'm a bulldog on the mound, completely opposite person of who I am right now," he said. "I get out there and the switch flips and it's go time."
He also knows his family tree. As he proudly tweeted after the trade, he's the second cousin of his new manager, Brad Ausmus, though he can't remember the particulars.
"I don't think he even knew it," Norris said. "My aunt, she was the first one that told me when I was a little kid. So whenever we saw him on TV or saw his [baseball] card, it was always exciting.
"It's by marriage. My mom sent me a text with it all, but it's like my mom's dad's daughter's husband, or something like that? Second cousin's dog?"
Ausmus figures it has to do with Ausmus' father, who was connected to Norris' hometown of Johnson City, Tenn.
"I just want outs," Ausmus said, "whether we're related or not."