LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Daniel Norris doesn't want another pitcher's misfortune to be his stroke of luck. He'd rather own a spot in the Tigers rotation on his own merits than head to Detroit simply being Mike Fiers' fill-in."I want to win a job, not get one] by default,"
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Daniel Norris doesn't want another pitcher's misfortune to be his stroke of luck. He'd rather own a spot in the Tigers rotation on his own merits than head to Detroit simply being Mike Fiers' fill-in.
"I want to win a job, not [get one] by default," Norris said Friday after his five innings in the Tigers' 11-3 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium. "It doesn't make me feel any better if I get to be in the rotation because he's hurt. …
"I want to pitch well and [have people] say, 'OK, this kid's good. We've gotta have him here no matter what.' That's winning a job. Not [because] there's nobody else. That doesn't do anything for me."
At the same time, Norris wondered aloud how much he has left to learn from a Minor League stint. After spending parts of the past two seasons at Triple-A Toledo, including an extended injury rehab assignment last year, he would like to find a way off the Interstate 75 shuttle.
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"Obviously, I want to pitch at the big league level," Norris said. "In my humble opinion, I don't know what being in Triple-A would do for me. I've spent a lot of time there, it feels like, the past few seasons, whether it be rehab or being optioned. And for me, I want to face the best. I want to prove myself.
"At the end of the day, I obviously don't make that decision, but I think, personally, I just want to be challenged. Not that there aren't good players at Triple-A, but obviously, everybody wants to play at the big leagues. That's where the big dogs are. I feel that I want to be challenged there and find success there."
It's a middle ground further complicated by Fiers' back injury and related spring struggles. Manager Ron Gardenhire said after Friday's win that he hopes to gain some clarity about Fiers' situation on Saturday, which could decide Norris' fate for now. But he ruled out any idea of Norris as a reliever other than in a pinch.
"We don't have enough starters in this organization to start taking one and using him [in relief]," Gardenhire said. "We're going to keep him in that rotation, keep him stretched out. We want him as a starter."
Norris had his own worries on the mound Friday. He allowed two first-inning runs and threw seven extra pitches thanks to defensive miscues, before a leadoff runner reached in the second inning on a throwing error behind him. He gave up a tape-measure homer to Freddie Freeman to lead off the third, a four-pitch walk immediately after that and a two-out walk to extend the inning.
Norris had all the ingredients for disaster, but he recovered for a nice finish. After Alexi Amarista caught a bobbled popup from Dansby Swanson, Norris worked his final two innings in 20 pitches, allowing only a walk while getting early contact for outs.
"Really, we left him kind of hanging out there to dry, but he found a way to get out of it," catcher James McCann said. "He did one heck of a job of damage control."
Norris finished with three runs (two earned) over five innings with four walks and three strikeouts. He threw 45 of his 85 pitches for strikes.
"I think all spring I've kind of showed I'm commanding the ball better. Today was just a little bit haywire on some things," Norris said. "But damage control, that's the big positive I'll take out of this."
McCann breaks out at plate
McCann's offseason work not only added 20 pounds to his frame, it also left him needing a new wardrobe.
"I can't fit into my jeans anymore," McCann said. "I don't have a single suit that fits me. I have to get new suits."
McCann will not have to worry so much about his bat as he breaks camp. After a 5-for-31 start to Grapefruit League play, McCann hit a pair of doubles in a five-RBI performance Friday. One was off an offspeed pitch from former teammate Anibal Sanchez; the other was off a fastball from Matt Wisler.
"Sometimes it takes a little longer to find your swing than other Spring Trainings," McCann said. "There's been a little tinkering here and there, trying to get back to where I feel like I ended last year."
Jordan Zimmermann will make his final tuneup before his Opening Day start when the Tigers host the Phillies on Saturday in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, live on Gameday Audio.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.