DETROIT -- The first step of Daniel Norris' offseason work is complete. The next step begins next week.After a three-start stint in the Dominican Winter League, the Tigers' left-hander is on his way to Japan, where he'll be part of a team of Major League stars touring the country in
DETROIT -- The first step of Daniel Norris' offseason work is complete. The next step begins next week.
After a three-start stint in the Dominican Winter League, the Tigers' left-hander is on his way to Japan, where he'll be part of a team of Major League stars touring the country in a resumption of the All-Star Series against players from Japan's professional leagues.
The hope is for Norris to make a couple of starts during the seven-game tour, which begins Nov. 8 in Tokyo with an exhibition against the Yomiuri Giants before continuing with All-Star games in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya. MLB Network will televise games Nov. 9-15.
As much as Norris enjoys traveling and meeting people, this is a business trip for him. After pitching 56 regular-season innings between Detroit and a Minor League rehab assignment while recovering from groin surgery, both Norris and the Tigers wanted more innings to shore up his delivery ahead of what is expected to be an important Spring Training for him.
Norris allowed three runs on 11 hits over 14 2/3 innings in his three Dominican League starts, walking four and striking out 12. Norris struggled with command, throwing four wild pitches and hitting a batter.
The talent level in the Dominican League varies widely from early in its season, around this time, to the stretch run around the holidays and into the league playoffs in January. Major League stars who still play in the league tend to do so later in the season, but the early-season stretch includes prospects and younger big leaguers -- not just Dominicans returning home, but young players like Norris looking to get extra work.
One talent evaluator who watched Norris' early starts had his velocity at 89-92 mph, about the same range as he showed in his September stint in the Tigers' rotation. Norris said in a text message his velocity range included a few pitches topping out at 94.
"Better every time out," he said, when asked how he was feeling.
That feel for pitching, rather than results, is what he's seeking in his extra work. The more he pitches, the more he can ingrain his mechanics into muscle memory before getting into offseason workouts. From the Tigers' standpoint, the more innings Norris puts into his total for the year, the more likely the team is to let Norris pitch without an innings limit next season.
Once Norris returns from Japan, he plans to head to California and work out at Peak Performance Project for a second straight offseason, focusing on his core muscles. Though Norris has been limited by injuries the last few years, none of them have involved his arm. The groin was a problem the last couple of years until he underwent surgery as a last resort. His back sidelined him out of Spring Training in 2016, and right oblique strains led to stints on the disabled list in '15 and '16.
A healthy arm has been a saving grace for Norris through a frustrating stretch of other ailments. Now he's hoping to get the rest of his body in tune as he takes his work to Japan.
• With the offseason officially underway, the Tigers made a series of procedural moves Monday. Jose Cabrera, Michael Fulmer and John Hicks were officially activated from the 60-day DL. Francisco Liriano, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jose Iglesias and Victor Martinez officially became free agents with the expiration of their contracts. The moves leave the Tigers with 36 players on their 40-man roster.
• Outfielder Daz Cameron, the Tigers' No. 8 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and catcher Jake Rogers, ranked No. 12, were selected to the Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars Game, an annual showcase of the league's most promising prospects. Cameron entered Monday batting .316 (12-for-38) with nine runs scored for the Mesa Solar Sox, while Rogers was batting .160 (4-for-25) with two doubles. The game is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.