BRADENTON, Fla. -- Derek Norris is officially in the fold, which means the Rays' catching depth is now four deep.The Rays announced on Saturday that they have signed the veteran free agent to a one-year Major League contract."We're excited as an organization [about signing Norris]," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Derek Norris is officially in the fold, which means the Rays' catching depth is now four deep.
The Rays announced on Saturday that they have signed the veteran free agent to a one-year Major League contract.
"We're excited as an organization [about signing Norris]," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's a guy that's got a track record of being able to go back there for 100-plus games, be an everyday catcher.
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"You look at his complete body of work, and he's been a really good player, really good catcher for three years now. I know last year he took a step back offensively, but we know there's a lot in there offensively. We're excited to have him join our team."
Norris batted just .186 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs for the Padres in 2016. He was traded by the Padres to the Nationals in December, but Washington released him last week. He was an All-Star with the A's in 2014, a season in which he batted .270 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs.
"It was definitely longer than I wanted to be home for," said Norris, who has been in Wichita, Kan., for a week waiting to find a new team. "It was just bad timing for everything that transpired. Everyone's kind of starting to wind down camp. It's a difficult time for the majority of clubs to not just believe in what they have.
"But I think for me it's an opportunity, especially coming off a season that on and off the field was kind of rough for me. One kind of led to the other. But [I'm glad to] just to be able to put it behind me, and go out there and show what I've done my whole career, and just get back to the player I know I am."
Norris elaborated on why he chose to sign with the Rays.
"There was definitely a few offers out there I could have ventured into," he said. "But I think ultimately, the optimism the front office and guys showed in me, and what they envisioned me doing here with the great group of pitchers we have here, that's something that I think is a strength of my game, to be able to work with guys and bring out the best in these guys."
The Rays value the ability of a catcher to frame pitches, a skill Norris has worked to refine over the years.
"I take a lot of pride in how I receive the baseball," he said. "I think you can only control so much when it comes to pitch-framing numbers because it's subject to different variables.
"I take a lot of pride in how I receive the baseball. I really have worked on the low strike, getting lower than a low strike. ... I think most importantly, when you're establishing the ball down in the zone, it allows you to work up in the zone and get away with it instead of making mistakes up in the zone."
Norris joins catchers Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Jesus Sucre.
Appearances would suggest that Casali, Maile and Sucre are now competing for one open job, a job will likely disappear once Wilson Ramos is ready to play.
Tampa Bay signed Ramos, who was a free agent, in December to be its primary catcher, but Ramos is projected to be out until at least the middle of the season as he recovers from a torn right ACL.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.