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Norris builds on impressive spring with solid showing

Right-hander bounces back from bumpy last outing with sharp five-inning start

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Orioles starter Bud Norris' main goal this spring has been to stay healthy. But the right-hander has done more than just that, as Norris tossed five strong innings against the Pirates on Thursday night to continue what has been a successful spring campaign.

"As a starting pitcher, you pitch deeper in the games and you get more comfortable with [where you're at]," said Norris, who has pitched in four games. "You're building your pitch count. Early on, the first time, you get a little jitters the first couple starts, but I feel comfortable. I've been working hard and getting closer to closer to Opening Day, I feel pretty good."

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Norris allowed two hits, including a solo homer to Andrew McCutchen, and struck out five under the lights of McKechnie Field for a rare Grapefruit League night game. It helped the exhibition contest feel more like a real game.

"Absolutely. We're used to playing 7 o'clock games compared to 1," Norris said. "Just the adrenaline, we know we're breaking camp here soon and those last couple spots are out there to go get, so everybody's been working real hard and kind of getting antsy because we know there's still work to be done."

Norris is widely assumed to be in the Orioles' rotation and is coming off a 2013 season in which he went 10-12 with a 4.18 ERA in 32 games (30 starts), including a 4-3 record with a 4.80 ERA after a midseason trade to Baltimore. He also battled elbow soreness down the stretch with his new club.

"I've said to you guys all along, staying healthy is the biggest thing for me," Norris said. "A lot of guys can go too fast or too slow and not be where they need to be. I've worked real hard to be healthy and feel as good as I do, so I'm hoping to carry that over to the season as well."

So far this spring, Norris has pitched 11 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on nine hits. His only poor outing came against the Yankees, when he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) after going in with five scoreless frames.

"Considering the way New York went, I was pretty happy to get through five," Norris said. "The ups and downs are really important and I felt pretty good out there."

"He got a little off task I thought last time out, but for the most part he's getting good return on the changeup," manager Buck Showalter said. "Still another level when you get to Baltimore and start trusting it in a Major League regular season."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.

Baltimore Orioles, Bud Norris