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Norris pitches in relief, but remains starter

Gardenhire says Tigers lefty needed work; Fulmer to start Friday
Special to MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tigers starter Daniel Norris made a relief appearance in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Mets at First Data Field on Monday.

Tigers first-year skipper Ron Gardenhire said to not read too much into Norris, who made 18 starts for Detroit last season, coming out of the bullpen in a Grapefruit League game.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tigers starter Daniel Norris made a relief appearance in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Mets at First Data Field on Monday.

Tigers first-year skipper Ron Gardenhire said to not read too much into Norris, who made 18 starts for Detroit last season, coming out of the bullpen in a Grapefruit League game.

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"He pitched. He needed to get out there on the mound," Gardenhire said. "We just got him out there to throw and get him in there. [Pitching coach Chris Bosio] said he was going to put him in at the end of the game and see if the juices flow at that time of the game and see how he did."

Gardenhire said the left-handed Norris, 24, is in the mix to earn a spot in the rotation, but that the Tigers will take any good pitcher, regardless of starting or relieving.

"If you've got a good arm and you've got a chance to make this club, it doesn't matter how you make it. We're just going to use everybody everywhere, but he's a starting pitcher," Gardenhire said.

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"If we find that we'll go with somebody else, we'd tell him before we tell anybody. He's a starting pitcher and we put him in the ballgame just to get him out there to pitch and see how he'd react to coming in late in the game. He throws the [stuff] out of the ball."

Norris pitched a scoreless inning, allowed one hit and struck out one.

Gardenhire said he liked the work of starter Mike Fiers, saying, "He's a veteran guy. I'm not too worried about him. He knows how to pitch. He went back out there and the ball was coming out better in the second inning."

Gardenhire added that Michael Fulmer, who has been pushed back due to elbow tenderness, will start at home against the Mets on Friday.

Getting offensive
The Detroit bats were cooled by Matt Harvey and six other Mets pitchers, scoring a pair in the ninth to prevent a shutout, but that hasn't generally been the case this spring. Detroit's bats continue to pace the Grapefruit League in the second week of games.

Video: DET@NYM: Lugo drives in first Tigers' run in 9th

The Tigers entered Monday's contest with a .277 batting average. The team ranked second in home runs with 15 and slugging percentage at .452. They were fourth with a .347 on-base percentage.

Big applause
Tigers reliever Shane Greene couldn't help but applaud the efforts of center fielder Mike Gerber in the fifth inning.

Gerber ran down a deep shot in the gap by Jose Reyes with one out and no one on, using his speed in to snare the drive.

Greene lifted his hands and applauded the young outfielder, who finished last season at Triple-A Toledo.

Video: DET@NYM: Gerber robs Reyes with running catch

"He can run it down. He can really run it down and make it look smooth," said Gardenhire of Gerber.

Greene, 29, worked a perfect frame and struck out Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores in his inning. He has worked three consecutive scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just two runners, both by walks.

Familiar face
Former Detroit farmhand Drew Smith was part of the Mets' win, allowing a hit and issuing a walk in the eighth.

Smith was a member of the Tigers' organization last year before he was dealt to Tampa Bay as the player to be named in the swap that sent outfielder Mikie Mahtook to Detroit.

The Rays turned around and shipped Smith to the Mets in late July when the club acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from New York.

Smith, a hard-throwing right-hander who can reach 98 mph, had two stints in the Florida State League, at Lakeland and Charlotte, plus stops at Double-A Binghamton with the Mets. He also pitched at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham for the Rays.

Up next
The Tigers return to Lakeland, Fla., after a pair of games on the east coast of Florida. Lefty Francisco Liriano makes his Spring Training debut Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio, facing the Yankees and lefty Jordan Montgomery at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Bill Whitehead is a contributor to MLB.com.

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