SAN DIEGO -- April and May were a grind for Padres catcher Derek Norris, and he's the first one to admit it. But four days ago, the calendar turned to June, and Norris has emerged as the offensive threat behind the plate that the Padres had been looking for all
SAN DIEGO -- April and May were a grind for Padres catcher Derek Norris, and he's the first one to admit it. But four days ago, the calendar turned to June, and Norris has emerged as the offensive threat behind the plate that the Padres had been looking for all along.
Norris continued his hot streak during Saturday night's 4-3 victory over the Rockies at Petco Park, hitting a go-ahead third-inning homer and finishing 2-for-4. He's 7-for-15 this month and has reached base a couple more times, raising his average from .179 to .205 in that span.
"You just try to get out of the mentality of trying to play catch-up and trying to get five hits every night to get you back to where you want to be," Norris said afterward. "It's just improbable. You can't really think like that."
Norris' first couple months were a combination of some poor luck on balls in play and a strikeout rate hovering around 26 percent -- well above his career average.
But when he did hit the ball, he usually squared it up. Only Brett Wallace and Christian Bethancourt have a higher average exit velocity among Padres, according to Statcast™.
"He was hitting a lot of balls hard early on, and he just wasn't getting any love for it; he was getting out consistently," said Padres skipper Andy Green. "He ran through a stretch where he couldn't find it for a while, and now he's coming back. It's good to see that."
Sure enough, Norris pulverized a curveball from Rockies starter Chad Bettis in the third inning Saturday. He reached for the pitch on the outside half of the plate, and slammed it into the left-field seats.
It was Norris' sixth dinger of the season, and it could very well be representative of the fact that he's turning a bit of a corner at the dish.
"Everyone goes through a stretch where they struggle in certain months," Norris said. "As good as it would be to get off to a good start, sometimes the years where you get off to the slowest starts are some of your best years."
Fluctuations at the plate are common enough for just about any big league hitter. But in Green's eyes, Norris has shown an innate ability to put those struggles to the side, when he's been focusing on his catching duties.
"A baseball season is about how you handle adversity," Green said. "And he's had to handle a lot of it for the first couple months this season from a hitting perspective.
"I think he's caught very well, I think he's separated his offense from his defense very well. He's gone behind the plate and really cared about his pitchers and putting them in a position to succeed and I think that's a lot of maturity right there."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.