CHICAGO -- Daniel Norris is willing to pitch in relief to stay in the big leagues. He's willing to do whatever the Tigers ask, really."I want to be here," Norris said on Thursday morning. "I've made that known. I don't care if it's out of the bullpen or playing center
CHICAGO -- Daniel Norris is willing to pitch in relief to stay in the big leagues. He's willing to do whatever the Tigers ask, really.
"I want to be here," Norris said on Thursday morning. "I've made that known. I don't care if it's out of the bullpen or playing center field. I just want to be here. I see what [Shohei] Ohtani's doing. I can do that."
Norris got the call on Thursday with two outs in the fifth inning, inheriting runners at the corners with the Tigers trailing the White Sox by three runs. Norris delivered 3 1/3 innings of one-hit, one-run ball, striking out six with help from a nasty slider to keep the Tigers close enough for a ninth-inning rally.
He didn't get a decision out of the outing, and it likely won't keep him in the big leagues past this weekend, but it was a critical contribution that kept the Tigers close for an eventual comeback and a 9-7 win in 10 innings.
"That was a really nice team win for us to come back," Norris said. "That was awesome. I was just happy to be a part of it."
The Tigers are likely to ask Norris in the next few days to start at Triple-A Toledo. It's the logical move when Mike Fiers returns from the disabled list to join Detroit's rotation, which is expected on Sunday.
"He needs to start," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Norris. "We need starters in this organization. We need backup systems here, and we're going to get him starting here soon."
This is the conundrum the Tigers now face with Norris, a talented young left-hander without a spot. As Detroit tries to build its roster around young talent, it eventually needs to figure out what it has in Norris, who has bounced between Detroit and Toledo the last two seasons (though last year's stop as a Mud Hen came on a rehab assignment).
Once the Tigers added Francisco Liriano to their rotation along with Fiers, Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer, Norris' fate in Toledo was all but sealed. Fiers' season-opening DL stint delayed that, putting Norris in the fifth-starter spot. Once weather postponed Wednesday's series finale against the Royals, however, Norris' start wasn't needed.
"It's not the way I envision it for sure, but a lot of times what we envision doesn't happen," Norris said. "Just trying to take it day by day, not looking too far ahead. I've thrown the ball well this spring, so I can hold onto that at least. I feel like I've done what I needed to. The rest isn't up to me, so I can't look forward.
"If I was having bad outings and I was worrying about the past, that would be another thing, but I don't think that's really been the case. For me, I'm just trying to avoid thinking ahead."
Until Thursday, Norris hadn't pitched since he threw in a Minor League camp game on March 28 in Lakeland, Fla. His mindset, he said, was to forget his situation and simply go out and throw.
Norris is trying to make the best of it.
"God has a plan; I'm holding onto that," Norris said. "Sometimes that's all you've got. I've put the work in. That's all you can do. Sometimes you're just not really given an opportunity."
About the weather
The weather was chilly in Chicago before Thursday's White Sox home opener, but it was much better than the conditions the Tigers had in Detroit for most of their season-opening homestand. The team took batting practice outside for the first time in days, hoping to get their bats going after hitting in the cages.
After weather postponed Wednesday's homestand finale, the Tigers faced the prospect of one game in a three-day span, with Friday a scheduled off-day. Postponements last Thursday and Saturday left them in a similar scenario before playing a day-night doubleheader last Sunday.
The result has been a disjointed schedule.
"We're just trying to play the games as they come," Gardenhire said. "With our pitching, we're doing the best we can with it to try to keep everybody pitching, but some guys have gotten backed off."
Gardenhire, who had to worry about weather conditions during the Twins' days once they moved to Target Field midway through his Minnesota tenure, said it's a challenge in the schedule that's not easy to fix.
"I'm not a schedule-maker. I just let them do their thing," Gardenhire said. "I think we all know what happens when all the teams start up north that play up north. You have this chance, and this is just one of the rough ones. We've done it before and it hadn't been this bad. This is just a little bit of a rough one. …
"It's a crapshoot. You just don't know with the weather. They can't predict that when they're making out a schedule. I know we've always said it would be nice to start down south for the first week and play in better-weather areas, but eventually you have to have a home opener. This is just a little bit of a rough one."
Barbato optioned to Toledo
While the Tigers wait to activate Fiers from the DL, they did so with reliever Johnny Barbato and optioned him to Toledo. The right-hander will work out of the bullpen for the Mud Hens.
Barbato opened the season on the DL after a right forearm strain that cost him a good portion of the Spring Training schedule, knocking him out of the competition for a middle-relief role. When he did pitch, he threw hard.
Barbato pitched in Minor League intrasquad games in Lakeland over the past week and felt fine.
The Tigers claimed Barbato off waivers from the Pirates in January.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.